Behind the Beans

All’s fair with Fair Trade

By Sam Webster

Initially conceived in 1949, Fair Trade is a trade agreement aimed at the fair treatment and development of developing countries; through the protection of the monetary value of their exports. Fair Trade products can be found in supermarkets, cafes and restaurants around the country. From vegetables and fruit, to meats, spices and herbs. Anything grown, or raised for harvest can be covered under Fair Trade’s equality contracts.

In 1962, the International Coffee Agreement, which was an agreement between the world’s biggest coffee producers including Nicaragua, Brazil and Ecuador. All of whom prior to the act used child labour, which the agreement aimed to outlaw.

The agreement ensures that the growers of the coffee plants receive a fair amount for their produce by limiting the minimum price that coffee can be sold for by companies. As well as this, Fair Trade aims to ensure the working conditions for those who harvest the produce are in line with UN and other organisations standards of Human Rights.

Over the years, Fair Trade coffee has gone on to become a massive market in its own right. With many high street and independent coffee shops choosing to use Fair Trade produce in their products. Major coffee companies in the UK including Nescafe, Costa and Caffé Nero are choosing to source their produce from ethical providers through organisations such as the Rainforest Alliance .

Which aims to prevent environmental damage caused by the growing of coffee beans in endangered ecosystems such as the Amazon Rainforest which sees over 200,000 square feet of rainforest burned every day to provide land to grow produce, amongst which coffee is one of the most desired.

coffee-graph

A graph depicting the increase in sales of Fair Trade coffee products over a decade

However, with this growth comes a serious negative. With the increased worth of these products, coffee, bananas and other grown products. The demand for more and more plantation space increases. The countries in which these products are grown have extremely fragile ecosystems with many endangered species whose environment happens to be in the land needed for these plantations.

This issue is an unfortunate aspect of all agriculture, as demand for a product increases, whether it be coffee beans, wood or even livestock, space is needed to grow or rear them. Many groups and government have come together to reduce the environmental impact of industry and agriculture, but so long as there is an increasing demand such as this, it will become harder and harder to maintain these fragile environments.

In the end, Fair Trade aims to reduce both the ethical and environmental impacts of coffee production in developing countries, at the same time as ensuring that the quality of the products meets the expectations of its customers.

With the ever increasing demand for coffee amongst other foreign products, organisations such as Fair Trade are becoming increasingly important in the continuing insurance of the welfare of the people who grow the product upon which the consumer relies on so heavily.

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