Interesting article about Fair Trade

growing, harvesting, processing, cupping, purchasing

Postby phaelon56 on Wed Apr 26, 2006 5:53 am

As a roaster with just under two years of part time experience under my belt and a small start-up roastery of my own under development - I read this with great interest.

In my area we have a local food co-op that does a fair volume of beans sales and sells only Certified Organic, a fair percentage of which is FT certified. They use a small regional supplier but it's one who is not in this town.

hen there's a fair Trade retail store that sells, furniture items, crafts, artwork etc. and also stocks FT certified coffees from Equal Exchange. I think they do a more moderate volume than the co-op but what they both have in common is

1) customers who come in specifically looking for FT

2) coffee that is oily, grossly over-roasted and does not appear to come from a vendor who assists them with inventory control

I have every reason to believe I can offer them a better product at a price similar to what they're presently paying but I must do FT certification and pay Trans-Fair to make this happen.

Is there any complelling reason why I shouldn't do both? Focus on and offer "relationship coffees" and try to educate my customers but also offer FT certified until such a time that consumers understand the benefits and validity of FT alternatives?
Last edited by phaelon56 on Wed Apr 26, 2006 7:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Steve on Wed Apr 26, 2006 6:20 am

I guess Owen its if

1. you can find some FT coffee good enough for your standards and
2. are you willing to compromise?

Its a tough call, but I personally think you have far more longevity and success if you set down your core principles and goals from the start and develop them, rather than starting off with a compromise. By not offering fairtrade you already start the dialogue with the customer what your about, than trying to change them. Short term pain for long term gain.
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Postby Tim Dominick on Wed Apr 26, 2006 9:09 am

It is important to note, if you are not under contract with transfair you may use the term "fair trade" without violation of any copyright or trademark. You may not call your product "certified fair trade" or "licensed fair trade" nor can you use the transfair logo.

The can of worms comes flying open when a consumer asks you "who can assure me that you're really fairly trading"

Relationship coffees take a little more work to promote. Not only do you need a relationship at origin, but you need an equally strong relationship with the vendor/customer who is trusting you to engage in fair trade.

In a grocery store where you can't easily tell your story to every customer it will be a challenge to compete for shelf space reserved or dedicated to fair trade coffee. In this type of setting there are distinct marketing advantages for fair trade labels. If you are a new company without a reputation it might be difficult to convince a skeptical public of your good nature and solid buying practices. Remember, activists aren't a very trusting lot...

Again, we arrive at the root of what transfair is supposed to be offering: third party verification of purchasing throughout the supply chain. This can be attained in other ways. Intelligentsia, Allegro, Deans Beans to name a few, have undertaken projects using independent third party certification/verification. None of these programs didn't happen overnight nor are they without cost to start and manage. (I suspect they cost a hell of alot more than transfair fees.)
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Postby Brent on Wed Apr 26, 2006 1:57 pm

Tim Dominick wrote:The can of worms comes flying open when a consumer asks you "who can assure me that you're really fairly trading"


or not...

I can show the chain from certified FT to me (ie direct from my broker) surely that is enough?

or to put it another way, there are parts off my books that are open to review, as they would if we were actually certified in any case. If they weren't open, surely I am hiding something?

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Postby Tim Dominick on Wed Apr 26, 2006 2:34 pm

brentling wrote:
I can show the chain from certified FT to me (ie direct from my broker) surely that is enough?

or to put it another way, there are parts off my books that are open to review, as they would if we were actually certified in any case. If they weren't open, surely I am hiding something?

Brent


In a sense, yes you can show someone your invoices and ask them to trust your word that they are genuine. In turn you have to trust the word of your broker. This is where the idea of a third-party audit, be it transfair or an independent comes into play.

However, what happens when a shady importer knows you aren't reporting your purchases to transfair or using a third party audit and they decide to sell you a coffee that they paid .99 a pound for as FT coffee? Believe it or not, such crap happens...

When you report your purchases to a third party who is matching your report to the report filed by the importer which is in turn matched to records filed by the coopertive you have a complete picture.

Distilled down to this, the concept of fair trade makes a hell of alot of sense, too bad there is so much political baggage associated with the execution.
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Postby Brent on Wed Apr 26, 2006 7:43 pm

Tim Dominick wrote:However, what happens when a shady importer knows you aren't reporting your purchases to transfair or using a third party audit and they decide to sell you a coffee that they paid .99 a pound for as FT coffee? Believe it or not, such crap happens...


then there endeth that supply arrangement

Tim Dominick wrote:Distilled down to this, the concept of fair trade makes a hell of alot of sense, too bad there is so much political baggage associated with the execution.


it's that baggage that I would suggest is what most people have a problem with...
Last edited by Brent on Thu Apr 27, 2006 5:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby P Allen on Thu Apr 27, 2006 4:25 pm

From how I understand it, most green brokers are required to provide proof of certification upon request for any given coffee. I've asked for this many times, and tend to have it faxed over to our office. Then, should a customer of ours ask if something is Fair Trade, Organic, etc, we can simply show them the faxed certificate and explain that it was a condition of buying that origin.

Since none of our customers have had a problem with this so far, we haven't seen the need to register with those organizations.
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Postby Munali on Fri May 05, 2006 4:52 am

Hey Aaron,

Sorry to reply days later. About utz kapeh; there are good sides in to it and also down side. Good is that we went through whole certification programme and looked carefully into many social aspects in the farm such as schools, medical clinic, handling of fertilizers etc. Lot's of it was already done, some got upgraded and so on. And of course check up is done yearly which is good way to make sure things are up to date.

Now downside.. we find that it hasn't really brought any new buyers to us who specially want certified coffee and it's a bit disappointing in that way. Maybe in the future utz kapeh certification will be better recognised and we will actually see more sales of certified coffee.

You can read more of utz kapeh certification in http://www.utzkapeh.com.

If you happen to attend SCAE conference in Bern come and get green bean sample from EAFCA stand.



But also our coffee goes mainly to Europe and we haven't managed to find anybody yet in America who would be interested in buying our coffee and distribute to smaller roasters.
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Postby aaronblanco on Fri May 05, 2006 6:58 am

Now downside.. we find that it hasn't really brought any new buyers to us who specially want certified coffee and it's a bit disappointing in that way. Maybe in the future utz kapeh certification will be better recognised and we will actually see more sales of certified coffee.


maybe, but the beauty of the certification is that it sends the right message that you are serious about sustainability, transparency and the like. serious coffee people are aware of utz kapeh and i'm sure it's only a matter of time.

good luck. hang in there.
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Postby Tim Dominick on Fri May 05, 2006 11:13 am

P Allen wrote:From how I understand it, most green brokers are required to provide proof of certification upon request for any given coffee. I've asked for this many times, and tend to have it faxed over to our office. Then, should a customer of ours ask if something is Fair Trade, Organic, etc, we can simply show them the faxed certificate and explain that it was a condition of buying that origin.

Since none of our customers have had a problem with this so far, we haven't seen the need to register with those organizations.


I take issue with piggy-backing on another entities certification. With organic certification it is actually illegal.

Sure, you can probably assume you aren't being fed false documents, and you can tell your customer that the guy ahead of me took care of his paperwork, paid his fees, and dealt with the system.

Then I have to ask: Why are you willing to reap marketing benefits associated with putting a label on your product without being an active participant in the system? If fair trade or organic aren't important enough to you to warrant your active participation, why even mention these terms to your customers? If you aren't willing to get your rosating plant certified as organic, how can you justify calling your coffee organic? If you have issues with transfair and you aren't creating a different model for third party certification, why are you happy to assure your customers that a third party you are not affilliated with has signed off on the transactions?
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Postby Brent on Sat May 06, 2006 2:11 am

Tim Dominick wrote:I take issue with piggy-backing on another entities certification. With organic certification it is actually illegal.

Sure, you can probably assume you aren't being fed false documents, and you can tell your customer that the guy ahead of me took care of his paperwork, paid his fees, and dealt with the system.

Then I have to ask: Why are you willing to reap marketing benefits associated with putting a label on your product without being an active participant in the system? If fair trade or organic aren't important enough to you to warrant your active participation, why even mention these terms to your customers? If you aren't willing to get your rosating plant certified as organic, how can you justify calling your coffee organic? If you have issues with transfair and you aren't creating a different model for third party certification, why are you happy to assure your customers that a third party you are not affilliated with has signed off on the transactions?


Fair comment.

From our perspective we don't have an issue per se with registering to use the FT logo (working on Organic but it all takes time and money, both of which are limited).

In fact the FT reg in NZ is probably the easiest thing we could do - I even have the forms and contract somewhere.

the issue we have is that we have to pay more $$$ over the premium we paid for the green, and have yet to be shown what happens to the extra $$$. If it is going to say coffee kids, or some similar cause, we will join tomorrow. If it is paying for osomeone in an office to fill out paper work I struggle to see the benefit to the farmer / co-op etc.

just my sleepy thoughts...
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Postby Goatherd on Sat May 06, 2006 8:59 am

I certainly don't tow the line for TFairUSA but I do know that it requires money for administrative pourposes for any business/non-profit. Maintaining and growing the administrative infrastructure is vital to the health of any business/non-profit. Now, what is done with this infrastructure/ administrative costs is a WHOLE other conversation. TFair won't survive if people don't pay the extra fees (while buying FT coffee). Whether this is a bad thing or not is up to you. I think there are valid arguments on both sides of this one.
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Postby td on Sat May 06, 2006 9:49 am

We are a transfair certifed roaster. Do I like it, no. But it was a business decision, plain and simple. It is just to hard to re-educate a consumer about FT, relationship, etc... all the while Transfair is generating so much press. Their marketing is effective and overwhelming. At the end of the day the correct business decision was to go with transfair. Mostly from a wholesale perspective.

If something better comes along I'm willing to take a look- but, so far- no joy on that front.

As for the politcs of the whole thing- well..sometimes you get the opportunity to sleep with those you wish to sleep with; and sometimes you sleep with those that will will sleep with you. Or you can always sleep alone.
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Postby Ric Rhinehart on Sat May 06, 2006 10:12 am

Pragmatic or expedient? (personally, jury is still out for me)

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Postby Tim Dominick on Sat May 06, 2006 11:36 am

I can appreciate the attitude of reluctance to pay premiums for FT certification. This is healthy skepticism and important to your business. If our company was making a choice to join today, knowing what we know now, it would be a much, much more difficult choice.

A good portion of the fees paid have been spent on advertising and POS materials. This fuels the awareness and creates the demand that is felt by roasters like TD. As he stated, it was a business decision to get in bed with a group of left coasters.

As someone who has dropped some bucks to TF over the years I feel entitled to ask roasters why they're happy to help themselves the revenue from marketing FT coffee without the obligation to report their purchases and pay the associated fees. I have no issues with a roaster who buys FT coffee and doesn't apply the label and wishes to have no association with TF.
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Postby Steve on Sat May 06, 2006 1:58 pm

Some things are more important than business decisions, hey if mr consumer doesn't want to buy from me because I don't have fair trade, I can live with that. If he doesn't want to buy from me because my coffee not good, then that hurts.

I refuse to pay for a badge to ease the consumers conscience. I'll pay good money for good coffee not for a badge.
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Postby aaronblanco on Sat May 06, 2006 3:32 pm

Steve wrote:I refuse to pay for a badge to ease the consumers conscience. I'll pay good money for good coffee not for a badge.


word. cup 'em blind and then choose, then tell your customers why you chose how you chose. how many folks will you actually lose that way? like, two? maybe?
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Postby Brent on Sun May 07, 2006 1:48 pm

Tim Dominick wrote:I can appreciate the attitude of reluctance to pay premiums for FT certification. This is healthy skepticism and important to your business. If our company was making a choice to join today, knowing what we know now, it would be a much, much more difficult choice.

A good portion of the fees paid have been spent on advertising and POS materials. This fuels the awareness and creates the demand that is felt by roasters like TD. As he stated, it was a business decision to get in bed with a group of left coasters.

As someone who has dropped some bucks to TF over the years I feel entitled to ask roasters why they're happy to help themselves the revenue from marketing FT coffee without the obligation to report their purchases and pay the associated fees. I have no issues with a roaster who buys FT coffee and doesn't apply the label and wishes to have no association with TF.


Different issue here inNZ.

No arguments, just it has been handled badly from my perspective here.

I am waiting openly to be convinced otherwise.

The actual fee is not that much, but the principle is.

It also irks, as we got into FT when you couldn't get certified in NZ, so the percentage is not something we budgeted on...
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