Fair trade bypasses greed

I would like to congratulate The Hook for being the first local publication to address the Fair Trade issue in regard to the coffee crisis. Kudos also to the students and everyone involved in bringing Fair Trade coffee to the University.

As pointed out by your article, the crisis concerns the producing countries and the people living in extreme poverty because of the crash of the green coffee market. However, even people who have heard about Fair Trade coffee seem confused.

The author of a recent letter [December 4: "Not quite fair, but a start"] stated that there are many high quality coffees that command a price substantially higher than Fair Trade's $1.26 per pound. This is true, but the farmer does not receive this higher price.

According to TransfairUSA and Oxfam America, the current price farmers receive for non-Fair Trade specialty grade Arabica coffee is between 20 and 30 cents per pound. By the time that green coffee reaches the specialty roaster, the cost will be from $1.30 to over $2 per pound. The reason? Many layers of middlemen.

Fair Trade bypasses middlemen, thus allowing the farmers to sell directly at a higher price to American importers. While Fair Trade currently benefit just a small portion of the coffee workers worldwide, even this small group cannot sell all their coffee at these prices because the demand is not yet there.

We cannot wait for the government or large corporations to volunteer to pay farmers a better price. The coffee drinking public must demand Fair Trade. Consumers can make a difference.

Bill Hay
Mountain View Coffee Roasters