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Their essay is a reminder of the richness of sociological explanations and the work that we do. October is Fair Trade Month.

Coffee and community: Maya farmers and fair‐trade markets – By Sarah Lyon

Many local coffee shop owners will talk about how fair trade contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions and some environmental benefits for disadvantaged farmers. They will emphasize that fair trade is best understood as a trading partnership based on dialogue, transparency, and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade.


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Inevitably, however, October will also attract the disapproving glare of some well-intentioned, but somewhat misguided, economists who have critiqued fair trade for not living up to its promises of alleviating poverty among coffee farmers. As scholars who have worked alongside fair trade farmers, lived in their communities, and who have interviewed fair trade advocates and consumers, we know that this form of trade is not perfect.

In fact, we have both written elsewhere about the many problems associated with fair trade.


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Nevertheless, fair trade is still more sustainable than the status quo. We seek to clarify five myths that economists perpetuate about fair trade. Myth 1 — Fair Trade certification costs too much for farmers — Economists frequently critique fair trade for promoting a certification system that adds extra costs for farmers. However, unlike corporations who might self-certify products using their own, internal standards, fair trade certification is independently regulated according to requirements that are regularly revised to adapt to the changing realities of agricultural production.

This is why it costs more. In exchange, certified producers gain access to a consumer market that recognizes and trusts the fair trade mark. Further, organizations like Fair Trade International help subsidize certification costs for the smaller landowners who are new to the fair trade market. Global demand has not yet met supply, and this is a problem within fair trade, but farmers continue to seek fair trade certification because they feel it is in their best interests.

Myth 2 — Fair Trade does not help the poorest of the poor — Economists correctly note that most fair trade coffee is grown by small-scale farmers. This means that migrant workers who pick coffee by hand and who often do not own their own land are not guaranteed any fair trade benefits.

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Let's Talk Coffee Event - Fair trade coffee farmers

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Fair trade coffee - Wikipedia

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Fair trade coffee

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