Backers of fair trade organize coffee break

May 8, 2008


Supporters of "free trade" coffee plan to distribute free coffee during a coordinated coffee break from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in the gazebo at Buford M. Watson Jr. Park, Seventh and Kentucky streets.

The Lawrence event is intended to be part of the "Fair Trade Coffee Break" being organized by The effort aims to get at least 5,000 people nationwide to simultaneously take a coffee break, an event designed to focus on the benefits of fair trade for farmers, consumers and the environment. Educational information will be provided, and fair traders will be available to answer questions.

For more information, e-mail or visit or


geniusmannumber1 9 years, 11 months ago

"Fair trade", however well intentioned, just has little or no effect on the standards of living of coffee farmers, and may do more harm than good. Leaving aside the ample anecdotal evidence of flaws in the system (coffee sellers marking up prices while not actually insuring that the money gets to the growers; fair trade collectives clearing virgin rain forests to plant crops), the entire process makes no sense to anyone with even a limited grasp of economics.Why are coffee growers underpaid? Because coffee is very, very cheap. Why is coffee cheap? Because it is overproduced. The obvious solution would be to come up with an plan to limit coffee production. Fair trade coffee artificially subsidizes the price of coffee, driving up prices (at least temporarily, for a portion of coffee growers). Thus, the overall price is depressed, making things even worse for that vast majority of coffee growers not fortunate enough to have a fair trade deal, and greatly limiting the potential economic benefits for those who do.Now, while this is somewhat oversimplified there are other subsidies, particularly those by the World Bank for places like Vietnam, which contribute greatly to this effect. But "fair trade", at best will not lessen these effects, and at worst exacerbates them. In the meantime, customers get to pay a premium for coffee, much of which goes directly to the distributors' bottom line, in exchange for being told by the distributor that they can feel good about themselves.

SettingTheRecordStraight 9 years, 11 months ago

Follow the website. It's a trade association plugging their products.

gerbilsniper 9 years, 11 months ago

I'd rather just go to dunn bros on 23rd. Fair Trade coffee and a local business.

aerickson 9 years, 11 months ago

Hi alm77,Thanks for the question! Fair Trade is a consumer driven movement based the criteria listed above. Equal Exchange is a company in the US that is a member of the Fair Trade Federation ( and sells (both retail and wholesale) 100% Fair Trade coffee, tea, chocolate and nuts ( Please let me know if you have more questions.Hello gerbilsniper,Just to clarify, Dunn Brothers is a franchise with only a portion of their coffee being Fair Trade, so be sure to request the Fair Trade brew if you're there.

aerickson 9 years, 11 months ago

Hi geniusmannumber1,Thank you for posting your concerns, please allow me a moment to address them.Fair Trade actually has a significant impact upon farmers and artisans. There is a screening of Black Gold on Monday 5/19/08 at 7 pm at Liberty Hall that demonstrates this quite successfully. Economics alone are being discarded by many in favor of Human Economics, or the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. This approach is quite similar to many practices adopted within the US such as child labor laws, minimum wage, safe working conditions, no slave labor, etc. Fair Trade is a consumer driven movement that aims to extend these basic human rights to all people and to ensure that those with less are not taken advantage of by those with more. Regarding the price of coffee, Fair Trade does not seek to price fix, which would indeed be harmful. Rather, Fair Trade sets a price floor that is the minimum price at which farmers can sell their crops and meet the cost of production. Another consideration is the market price is artificially distorted by large corporation which take advantage of the farmers lack of market power, not lack of demanded goods. As this is a consumer driven movement, the premium paid is a choice. However it is these choices that will create the demand for more Fair Trade and therefore more opportunities for farmers and artisans. Unlike traditional supply chains which are heavily saturated with middle men that take a majority of the profits, Fair Trade seeks to minimize the middle so that more of the profits are shared with the farmers. Within the Fair Trade movement there are concerns and criticisms to which the movement, through consumers, is constantly addressing. It is important to note that Fair Trade is not the end goal, but rather an attempt to shift consuming from only profit based to also take into consideration people and the planet. Ideally some day all trade will follow these practices, until then Fair Trade establishes the criteria for companies to succeed with their triple bottom line. The consumers can justifiably feel great about themselves as they support trade that is Fair to others. Sincerely,Alicia EricksonTwo Hands Worldshop

aerickson 9 years, 11 months ago

SettingTheRecordStraight,We are a retail online store that only carries items that are 100% Fair Trade following the Fair Trade Federations criteria of: Providing fair wages in the local context,Supporting safe, healthy, and participatory workplaces,Supplying financial and technical support to build capacity,Ensuring environmental sustainability,Respecting cultural identity,Offering public accountability and transparency,Building direct and long-term relationships, andEducating consumers.Thank you,Alicia

alm77 9 years, 11 months ago

Alicia, could you tell me the difference between Equal Exchange and Fair Trade?

aerickson 9 years, 11 months ago

And to clarify, we're supporters of Fair Trade coffee, not free trade :-)

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