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Jack Merriman

Content Marketing Manager

In the growing world of quality coffee, Fairtrade is becoming a more highly sought after certification with businesses and consumers becoming ever more conscious with their spending. People are increasingly asking about Fair Trade coffee and what kind of impact it can have on the climate, farming communities, and industry as a whole. This, along with many other questions concerning the price, taste, and processes behind a cup of Fairtrade coffee.

We hear from businesses all the time that are keen to learn more. So, in this article, we’re going to cover some of the most common questions you may have when trying to learn about Fairtrade coffee.

Firstly, What is Fairtrade Coffee? 

Fairtrade is a certification that guarantees producers a fair price for their work. Supporting 1.9 million farmers and workers, Fairtrade is a global movement that ensures farmers receive a decent income, work under humane conditions, and have the resources to build a better future.

How does it do this? Well, the global price of coffee is incredibly volatile and can massively impact the livelihoods of producers during sudden drops. By setting minimum prices for all major commodities, Fairtrade coffees create a safety net for producers that shields them from the risks of sudden price drops. Fairtrade coffee farmers also receive additional funding through the Fairtrade Premium to invest in business and local community projects, and improving production or quality.

Simply put, Fairtrade coffee gives the farmer a better deal as a baseline.

There are a number of certifications under the name Fairtrade, but the one we’re specifically talking about today is Fairtrade International. They’re a people-led non-profit organisation aiming to improve the impact of coffee on a global scale. Learn more ->


What Makes a Coffee Fairtrade?

Fairtrade International defines the set of standards for a coffee to be Fairtrade, but the actual certification compliance and auditing processes are conducted by third-party independent certifiers, the largest of which being FLOCERT.

At the farm:

The criteria for a coffee to become certified as Fairtrade is rather detailed. Fairtrade International only certifies producer groups of farmers, rather than individual farms themselves. Additionally, these groups must be democratically ran, 66% of the producers must be small-scale, and over 50% of the coffee output must be produced by the small-scale farmers.

A list of farming practices must also be adhered to, covering greenhouse gas emissions and energy reductions, soil and water quality, biodiversity protection and pest management, waste management and prohibition of GMOs.

There is also a cost associated with a producer group becoming Fairtrade certified, which is typically paid by the group itself. Those fees go towards the cerification body e.g.FLOCERT rather than Fairtrade International themselves.

Coffee Buyers, Roasters and Manufacturers:

Fairtrade coffee buyers are obligated to pay a minimum of the current market price or above (more on this later) directly to the coffee producing group. In order to sell coffee with a Fairtrade mark, green coffee buyers, roasters and manufacturers are subject to regular auditing by the independent certifiers e.g. FLOCERT.

At every step between farm to cup, a ‘paper trail’ follows the coffee to ensure standards are being upheld across the board. When we buy or roast our Fairtrade coffees, batch codes are uploaded to an online portal to maintain traceability across the supply chain.

When first looking to trade in Fairtrade coffee, following an assessment, these businesses will receive a ‘permission to trade’ valid for up to 9 months. Regular audits are then conducted to ensure Fairtrade standards and processes are being upheld. Learn more ->

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How Much does Fairtrade Coffee Cost?

When you really think about it, coffee is incredibly affordable for what it is. The fresh fruit of a plant grown on the other side of the planet is picked, processed, shipped, roasted, and often shipped again before it gets to you. When you think of the big picture, it’s incredibly affordable. The unfortunate impact is that coffee farmers and their workers at the very start of the chain are often poorly paid for their work.

Fairtrade aims to combat this by setting minimum fair prices for coffee farmers. It’s actually one of the only certifications that guarantees a minimum price level for its coffees. Farming groups are guaranteed 20 cents above the global commodity coffee trading price, or a minimum of $1.80 per lb for Arabica and $1.20 for Robusta as of August 2023. This is known as the Fairtrade Minimum Price (FPM).

So, does this mean that Fairtrade coffee is more expensive to you the consumer? Typically, yes. If you’re looking to buy a coffee as wholesale, you can expect to pay around £3 more per kilo for a Fairtrade coffee vs a non-Fairtrade coffee of similar quality. Looking for wholesale fairtrade coffee? Start here.

The actual price of roasted coffee, whether Fairtrade or not, is determined by a wide range of factors. Learn more on our Pricing Page.

Does Fairtrade Coffee Taste Better?

Fairtrade encourages farming groups to improve their cup quality, but taste is not itself a part of the eligibility criteria. This means that Fairtrade coffees can be found all along the spectrum of coffee quality from commodity to specialty. Whilst they are not inherently better tasting, the certification does aid farming groups in improving towards better quality in the future.

The caveat is that the cheapest available coffees on the market are very unlikely to be Fairtrade certified, so you might find a higher starting point in terms of quality by limiting your search Fairtrade coffees. But again, coffee quality isn’t really the direct focus here.

Where to Buy Fairtrade Coffee? 

Fairtrade coffee is grown and sold around the world and across the coffee drinking industry, from high street chains to high quality roasters. You can buy Fairtrade coffee in your local supermarket, on the shelf in Cafes, or through wholesale coffee roasters if you’re buying in bulk.

We work with green coffee importers to provide a range of Fairtrade coffee for our wholesale customers. Most notably DR Wakefield, an independent green coffee importer that became the first to gain a Fairtrade licence in 1994.

Looking to buy Fairtrade coffee for your business? Compare our wholesale coffees here.

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