Fair Trade versus Direct Trade, What is the Deal?
A raging argument among coffee lovers in cafes, homes, workplaces and countries the world over; is Fair Trade coffee fair? And if it is, can we be sure Direct Trade really is better?
Fair Trade found it’s way to coffee lovers shelves in the late 1980’s (1988 to be specific). Born in the Netherlands – a land of socially driven projects and conscious consumers. For the coffee industry, this was the first time roasted coffee could be certified with a label (the Fair Trade logo we all now know so well). Fair Trades’ core philosophy was to open markets and provide tools for farmers to increase the volume of coffee traded. In theory, this would increase revenue and trickle-down to their employees and inherently the community.
The outcome was an emphasis on moving product rather than educating these new markets. Consequently, Farmers’ networks were increasing in size and revenue. Fair Trade certified farmers have steadily seen increases in revenue since the early 2000’s. Not to say the profit-driven Fair Trade model coffee is any worse than other types of coffee, BUT their primary focus on the ability to scale farmers operations means quality is not the priority. Fair Trade also has ‘eligibility’ fee’s for certification, resulting in Farmer's revenue not truly climbing as the statistics suggest. This only scratches the surface of Fair Trade and the blurry motivations and intricacies of their certification.
What is Direct Trade?
Direct: without intervening factors or intermediaries. Trade: the act of buying and selling goods and services.
For the world of coffee, this means businesses delivering the coffee bean (in whatever form) without any middlemen in the supply chain – just the business and the farmer. For coffee farmers, this opens a world of possibilities. They are able to negotiate their own pricing, gain more revenue from increased ownership in the supply chain, have a closer relationship with their buyer and importantly, grow their brand and ultimately their livelihood. No, you don’t get a certificate (e.g. Fair Trade) but farmers working in Direct Trade relationships don’t have to pay certification fees. Also, Direct Trade roasters are businesses which don’t mind taking ownership in the supply chain – resulting in socially conscious business which are looking to build relationships and trust, not exploit them.
It is a long-winded conversation which leaves much to be said. But if you haven’t, learn more about Fair Trade – their work as an organization is an example of how we should all approach delivering consumer’s goods and services.
Where does Bonaverde fit in? We are the #coffeechangers – That’s not marketing, that’s our mission. We are very passionate about this topic. Our goal ultimately is to create an online marketplace where consumers can communicate directly with their favorite farmer. Until then, we have an online marketplace which showcases our green bean pouches while educating you about our Farmers – beginning the process of introducing them and their story.
Keep on keeping on,
The Team in Berlin.
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