On June 20th, I had the opportunity to join coffee producers, importers and roasters in Amsterdam for the first Fairtrade Coffee Forum to celebrate 30 years of Fairtrade coffee.
Its inspiring to consider how the Fairtrade coffee movement has evolved over the past 30 years. The first Fairtrade labeled coffee came from UCIRI cooperative in Chiapas, Mexico, and hit the shelves in the Netherlands in 1988. Since then, Fairtrade has grown to be a strong movement of more than 1.6 million producers and workers around the world. And it all started with coffee.
The Coffee Forum gave space for conversation around the current status of the Fairtrade pricing model and allowed us to examine how it is, or is not, working, and what we can do to improve it.
Some of the notable thought-leaders I heard speak at the Forum included Vanusia Nogueira of the Brazil Specialty Coffee Association, Ed Canty, the General Manager of Cooperative Coffees, Carlos Reynoso, President of the Coffee network at CLAC, Bijumon Kurian, the Chair of the Fairtrade Network of Asia Pacific Producers, and Leonard Zimbehya of Karagwe development Relief services PLC.
I noticed that a strong component of the conversations was the role of long-term relationships in the trading business and how this could be a powerful driver for a meaningful change in the coffee industry. As we consider the future of Fairtrade coffee, we must continue to foster stronger and more stable business relationships at all levels of production and understand how the Fairtrade Standards reflect this model of partnerships.
We also discussed how “quality” should be included in Fairtrade’s pricing model. This is especially relevant in today’s market, where consumers are developing palates that are more sophisticated. Consumers look for a unique flavour but they also value transparency and convenience.
Through these meaningful conversations, I think the Forum gave us the opportunity to explore this important subject, and open it up for dialogue to find ways that, as an industry, we can move forward and make sure Fairtrade stays strong in the long run.
Here’s to the next 30 years of Fairtrade coffee!