Challenge to Fair Trade
From its beginnings, Fair Trade was all about small farmers -- to provide some protection from the unequal conditions of the open market. Its guiding principles were:
- Work with Democratically Run Cooperatives Equal Exchange's partners are small farmer co-ops governed by the farmers themselves.
- Buy Direct Buying direct means that the profits reach the farmers and their communities, not the middlemen.
- Pay a Fair Price A fair price includes a guaranteed minimum price a safety net to cushion farmers against market fluctuations plus an above-market premium that the co-op can invest in healthcare, education and product improvement. Since 2000, Equal Exchange has paid over $10.0 million in Fair Trade premiums for coffee.
- Provide Advance Credit Every year since 2012, Equal Exchange has facilitated over $1.0 million in essential pre-harvest credit to coffee farmer co-ops.
- Encourage Ecologically Sustainable Farming Practices Sustainable farming helps build a long-term economic base for farmers while protecting their families, the environment and consumers from dangerous chemicals.
In 2012, Fair Trade USA broke from these guiding principles and Fair Trade International by declaring that it would certify coffee from plantations, a significant lowering of the FT standard that restricted accreditation to coffee growers on democratically run, farmer owner co-ops. By creating lower standards to accommodate the needs of plantations, FTUSA has re-created the problems for small producers that spurred creation of the FT model in the first place, but now with a label that says "Fair Trade". In response, Equal Exchange has embraced the "Small Producers Symbol" (aka SPP), newly established by the Latin American network of small farmer FT organizations. Large plantations are not eligible for SPP. Through Equal Exchange, we can be assured that we support "Small Farmers Big Change".