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Coffee is the world’s second-largest traded commodity, only after oil.  

Coffee farmers worldwide live in extreme poverty with wildly fluctuating coffee prices.  Large corporations and middlepeople take huge profits at the expense of farmers in developing countries.  Farmers are often forced to produce inferior products, sell their coffee at a loss, use farming methods that ruin their soil, or give up farming altogether.



Fair trade coffee is coffee that is certified as having been produced to fair trade standards. Fair trade organizations create trading partnerships that are based on dialogue, transparency and respect. They seek greater equity in international trade.

Fair Trade is a voluntary program utilized by coffee importers, food companies and artisans to create an alternative market for traditionally oppressed producers in developing countries, usually small scale farmers. The components include: targeted purchasing of coffee through democratically organized farmer co-operatives.

  • Agreed upon commodity floor prices that provide for a dignified livelihood
  • Direct exports by producers
  • A promise by importers to make affordable credit available to the farmer cooperatives
  • A world-wide network of non-profit certifying organizations
  • A fee paid by importers and wholesalers to cover the cost of certification
  • A seal that assures consumers that the product was fairly traded



Students can make a difference by demanding their schools carry fair trade coffee instead of conventional coffee which comes from exploited labor. IRTF has a Fair Trade grant program which can help your school start a Fair Trade program.


Visit Fair Trade USA for more information on Fair Trade Coffee.