What Exactly Is Fair Trade Coffee


Fair Trade Coffee is a program which was developed to benefit small groups of farmers in developing countries.

Under the Fair Trade program coffee is purchased through organized farmer cooperatives. The importers promise to make affordable credit available to these farmer cooperatives. An agreed upon minimum price for the coffee gives these small farmers a reasonable income.

The standards of the fair trade organization ensure that the fair trade farms meet labor standards, follow health and safety standards, pay workers at least a minimum wage, follow good environmental farming practices. Fair trade farms conserve the soil, minimize water use and dispose of hazardous waste using sustainable methods. Using child labor is prohibited on fair trade farms.

Although most fair trade coffee is certified organic there can be fair trade certified coffee which is not organic and has been grown using agrochemicals.

Most fair trade coffee is grown under trees which provide natural shade.

Inspectors visit fair trade farms to be sure standards are being followed.


The standards used most widely to define labeling fair trade coffee are the standards set forth by the Fair-trade Labeling Organization.

Those who import fair trade coffee must be registered and pay a fee. They are required to pay a minimum price to the exporting organizations.

In 1998 a non-profit organization in the United States known as Fair Trade USA began certifying fair trade coffee.

At that time Fair Trade USA was a member of the Fair Trade International. In recent years Fair Trade USA has split from the international organization. Fair Trade USA is currently making changes to their guidelines for Fair Trade certification of coffee. Coffee which is certified as Fair Trade will have a logo on the package indicating the product is a certified fair trade product. The labels for Fair Trade USA and Fair Trade International are different but each say Fair Trade.

Some fair trade organizations sell their products through small specialty fair trade shops. Others sell fair trade coffee through regular retail establishments.

There is debate whether or not the original fair trade coffee standards are actually still being followed by everyone receiving the fair trade certification for their coffee..