Wednesday, March 30, 2011

That’s a good Joe!

My daughter picked this line up from a cartoon movie – Monsters vs. Aliens, I think. She’ll sit with her water or milk at the table and say “That’s a good joe”. She knows she’ll get a laugh every time.

When I’m making coffee at home, I do offer it to my kids – partially to be polite, but also because I know they’ll laugh & remind me that coffee is an adult drink. I DO enjoy my coffee.

Coffee is one of those things that is under fire by me, mentally. It is one of these necessary evils. Evil in all the bad things it does to me, necessary in that it does lots of good for me as well. I LOVE coffee.

However, I KNOW (as do I think most coffee drinkers somewhere in a recess of their minds) that coffee is one of those products that while benefiting US, is quite disturbing in its production process. We’re talking child labor, wages well below legal standards, a work day extending well beyond legal standards, unsafe use of machinery & pesticides etc etc. Check it!

And at this point in time, the coffee WE purchase at our local store is at a nice low price that doesn’t even cover the farmer’s expenses – this leads to a debt cycle that is very dangerous and just adds to the above mentioned issues. But I REALLY love my coffee!!

Bring in Fair Trade! WHAT does fair trade even mean? It means all the above concerns are monitored & taken into account before the coffee reaches consumers. To receive a fair trade label, all these issues must be resolved.

YES, it costs more. A comment was made to me a few days ago as I was having this discussion with someone. This person said if they felt bad about buying regular coffee, they’d put a few extra bucks towards another group in the area trying to help out. *I shake my head*. I posted a link a few days ago about Nestle trying to justify child labor “As long as the kids have access to proper schooling”. Excuse me? So, you’re saying I can work my kids 12+ hours in the day, exposing them to unsafe conditions and various abuses, but so long as I get them some education in there, somehow that’s okay?? So, if I buy my lesser expensive coffee from Kenya (where 60% of the coffee laborers are children), but I pay for a well in a neighbouring African country, I’m justified! - ???

I don’t like it.

Rather than continue to buy lesser expensive coffee, if more people would accept the reality about where their coffee comes from and start supporting labels that show the fair trade logo, much of these issues would really just go away. If the farmer was paid something above, rather than below the cost of production, they may actually hire real laborers rather than enslave children. In Guatemala, the average female worker makes $0.87 -$1.30 for a 10-12 hour day rather than the legal $2.60 for a maximum 8 hour day. It is a bit of a cycle and the only one benefiting here is US.

Things HAVE been improving though, consumers ARE starting to realize this and major chains ARE making fair trade products more readily accessible. In 1998, more than 21,500 kg of fair trade coffee was sold in Canada. By 2004, Canadians were buying more than 940,000 kg. That’s a huge jump!! In Europe, sales of fair trade products are increasing at a rate of 20% per year. People ARE noticing and demanding change and the industry has had to follow suit. Yay!!

So, a week ago while shopping in Costo, I was purchasing more coffee (because I love it so!) I looked at the big tub for one price, then the slightly smaller container for more than a slightly higher price and I went with the fair trade option.

Why put a band aid on your knee if the cut is on your elbow?

For the record, Starbucks and other large deluxe mega coffee companies have already gone fair trade.

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  1. well said! I don't drink coffee but my hubby does and I believe we purchase fair trade every time :)

  2. Good for you. Way to set an example for your daughter and vote with your purchase.

  3. FTR, Nabob is a larger producer that is in the process of heading in a fair trade direction. I feel I can support that and purchase their coffee.

  4. Is Starbucks legitimately fair trade now? Because last time I checked (which, admittedly, was a few years ago), less than 10% of their stuff was actually certified. They had "their own standards" by which they decided that their coffee was fair trade enough.

    Fair trade or not, I still have not forgiven Starbucks for blocking Ethiopia's attempts to trademark their coffee in 2006. See the following links for the story:

    Starbucks and Ethiopia did eventually settle (after Oxfam published the story as widely as they could to put pressure on Starbucks to give in), but I think Starbucks showed their true colours when they tried to block Ethiopia's attempt to get a decent price on its own terms. Starbucks is all for helping farmers, as long as the deal is still on Starbucks' terms and doesn't mess with Starbucks' profits!

    I buy my coffee from MCC - I trust them to sell legitimate fair trade goods far more than I trust any of the bigger coffee chains.

    I am still keeping an eye out for places to buy fair trade fruit and clothing because, let's face it, coffee is just one good out of pretty much everything that we buy that is generally produced by people working in pretty awful conditions.

  5. Thank you for that info Adventures! I will have to check those out.

    Fair trade is a certification and not every grower can afford the label. I use the term very generally (like kleenex or bandaid - brand names that have become the main name for the actual item).

    I will support any company that works to ensure their product line has followed as much ethical sourcing as possible.

    Beans I have bought from Costco are Starbucks and are also certified fair trade. Nabob is part of Rainforest Alliance which while is not totally fair trade, does work towards ethical sourcing of their product.

    I am always looking to know more and every time I think I've figured something out, new information comes to light & I need to check into that as well!!!

    Thank you for your comment and for letting me know these things! I've bought lots of MCC coffee over the years but now try to buy through bigger chains so the bigger chains will realize that this is what the consumer wants!!