Fair Coffee Fare: The Benefits and Limitations of Fair Trade Coffee

Juliana Vegh


Fair Coffee Fair: The Benefits and Limitations of Fair Trade Coffee is a comparative essay focusing on one of the more prominent political commodities of our time: the coffee bean. Through ethnographic analysis of two small-scale coffee producing areas in Nicaragua and neighbouring Costa Rica, I aim to show the benefits and limitations of switching to the Fair Trade system to coffee farmers. The main idea behind Fair Trade is one of "trade not aid". By encouraging producers to form cooperatives that pool their resources, the Fair Trade system aims to provide fair prices for coffee exports, direct relationships between producers, buyers and consumers, democratic organizational support, and access to loans and developmental incentives. Fair Trade organizations also aim to promote environmental sustainability and gender equity as well as education for improving the methods used for coffee growing. The success of small-scale producers selling their coffee through fair trade markets depends largely on how well the farmers and co-op members can adapt to fair trade requirements, their particular geographical and climatic growing conditions, and the opportunities for fair trade coffee to expand and take a bigger portion of the global coffee market through consumer support for Fair Trade products. 

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