The Fair Trade USA/FLO break-up and its ramifications is seeping into the mainstream media. Recently, for example, the New York Times published an article on the debate on the future of fair trade, and NPR carried a radio segment. A piece in Mother Jones magazine by Tom Philpott summed up the kerfluffle nicely, but what really resonated with me in that article was the paragraph on what sparked the genesis of the fair trade movement. It neatly summarizes (much of) exactly what is wrong with big, cheap, corporate coffee:
Huge, rich-world companies like Nestlé and Folger’s (now owned by JM Smucker) dominate trade and drive prices down, reaping windfalls. Production consolidates onto huge plantations that employ workers (often, children) at poverty wages; small producers get squeezed out. And as these high-production plantations expand their monocrops to meet global demand, they gobble up high-quality farmlands that might otherwise be supporting smallholders who grow food staples for domestic consumption along with foreign-exchange-earning crops like coffee.
…and destroy biodiversity in the process, I might add. Read more about the practices and impacts of corporate coffee here.