Coffee and SustainabilityThe coffee industry is intrinsically linked with the Fairtrade brand, thanks in part to the efforts of stores such as the Co-op and other ethical retailers.
A symbol of sustainable farming, Fair Trade coffee, also known as equal exchange, is coffee and coffee beans that are traded directly between producer and retailer, bypassinng the coffee trader and other agents and thereby ensuring that the producer gets greater profits. By cutting the supply chain, coffee farmers get a greater return for their hard work – and as the coffee bean is often grown in some of the poorest and most challenging climates in the world, the scheme has social and ethical aims, as well as economic benefits. It`s worth noting however that the Fair Trade certification symbol doesn`t always mean that extra money is going to the pockets of the farmers themselves and savvy customers may wish to research further into coffee produced by projects with these more social aims.
The Fair Trade organisation is an independent organisation that certificates the coffee being produced. Importers agree to puchase directly from small farmers or local producers, who are guaranteed a fair minimum price for their coffee. The importers provide small amounts of credits to coffee farmers to keep them out of debt – a risk otherwise from local middlemen. The scheme is long-term and sustainable – it aims to build enduring trade relatioships between producer and distributor, cutting out agents and middleman and bringing greater stability to regions and markets which are traditionally very unstable.
The certification is a key part of sustainable farming – another important driver in the modern coffee business. Although no single definition exists, it`s a logical term to describe coffee beans grown in a manner that is kind to local people and the environment. Sustainable coffee farming gives back to both people and the land. It uses renewable resource and seeks to avoid non-renewable resources and so preserve the planet. Farming methods are designed to minimise pollution and care for both environment and the employees that work within a sustainable farming environment. Examples of these practices include the re-use of coffee husks as a fuel for heating, rather than the traditional approach of cutting eucalyptus trees for fuel.Another common practice is to use coffee driers that don`t cause pollution,such as solar models. Sustainable coffee farming will also minimise water use and clean water that is used in manufacturing – rather than returning itto the lakes directly!, it`s filtered through the earth using natural processes and then used for irrigating coffee. Other practices will be followed around shade-growth,organic farming and bio-diversification to preserve the land – and workers will be given education, decent wages and health care – nurturing communities as well as the grower`s land. It`s fair to say, fair trade coffee beans provide a more beneficial and satsifying coffee experience for all!