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The impact of fair trade on coffee growers

After crude oil, coffee is the most valuable commodity in the world. Thirty-one billion cups of coffee are drunk in the UK alone and the world’s biggest coffee companies are making huge profits. Yet 25 million coffee growers face ruin because they don’t get a fair price for their goods.

Ten years ago, struggling coffee growers in Chiapas, Mexico, formed the Kulaktik cooperative and began selling their coffee to the fair trade market. The farmers knew that their coffee was good quality and that the local ‘coyotes’ (middlemen) were not paying them what the beans were worth.

Today the cooperative has 150 members and sells all of its coffee through fair trade. As well as paying a good price, fair trade connections have given the farmers advice on the international market and encouraged them to improve their business by turning to organic methods. As a result, one-third of Kulaktik’s coffee is now organic and the farmers have invested in better harvesting techniques and new equipment.

As Juan Lopez, a leading member of the cooperative, explains: ‘It is no wonder that there is great interest in joining our co-op. With the fair trade price we receive we are at least able to minimally maintain our families. Others appear very sad and worried. They are trying to find other ways of surviving.’  

Adapted from ‘Spilling the beans’ – report on www.fairtrade.org.uk


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