"Over a period of 10 years, our analysis shows that organic and organic-fair trade farmers have become poorer relative to conventional producers."
For starters, it discriminates against the very poorest of the world's coffee farmers, most of whom are African, by requiring them to pay high certification fees. These fees -one of the factors that the German study cites as contributing to the farmers' impoverishment -are especially perverse, given that the majority of Third World farmers are not only too poor to pay the certification fees, they're also too poor to pay for the fertilizers and the pesticides that would disqualify coffee as certified organic.
Their coffee is organic by default, but because the farmers can't provide the fees that certification agencies demand to fly down and check on their operations, the farmers lose out on the premium prices that can be fetched by certified coffee.
Several years ago, I received a call from a church in Kingston, inquiring whether Green Beanery could supply it with freshly roasted fair-trade coffee on a weekly basis.So, like many of these liberal fads, it's not the results that really counts, it's how it makes you feel. Kind of like coffee...
Along the way, the church officer mentioned that the parishioners wanted to do what they could to help poor farmers in the Third World. I replied that I'd be happy to supply the church, but I also advised him that fair-trade coffee would not help the poorest of farmers -these smallholders are actually hurt when Western consumers forsake them for coffee produced by better-off farmers who can afford the certification fees.
I also mentioned that various coffees produced by small farmers in some of the neediest parts of Africa would taste superb while costing the church less, allowing it to spend the difference on some other worthwhile cause.
After a long pause, the church official replied something like: "I still think the parishioners would feel better knowing that they were drinking fair-trade coffee."