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Mug & beansToo often, coffee production means poverty and the destruction of the native environment. Fair Trade coffee ensures a living wage, humane working conditions, and environmental protection.




  • Coffee is the U.S.’s #1 food import.
  • The U.S. consumes a fifth of all coffee produced in the world, a $5 billion industry.
  • More than 20 million coffee workers in 49 countries produce coffee around the world.


Coffee Farmers

  • The current international pays coffee farmers painfully low prices (around 50 cents per pound)
  • This keeps them in a cycle of poverty and powerlessness.
  • At the same time, exploitive middlemen (“coyotes”) and coffee corporations make great profits.


Environmental Impacts

  • Traditionally (until the 1970's), coffee was grown in the shade of tropical forests.
  • Today, industrialized farming practices grows coffee in full sun.


The practice of growing coffee results in:

  • deforestation of tropic rain forests
  • loss of crucial habitat for birds and other animals, which has reduced migratory songbird populations (leading the Audubon Society, the American Birding Association, the National Wildlife Federation and the World Wildlife Fund to support shade-grown coffee)
  • greater use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which degrades the vitality and health of the land.


Fair Trade

  • Fair Trade importers pay farmers a living wage of $1.26, regardless of the volatile market price.
  • Provides financial and technical assistance to farmers.
  • Works with democratic farmer cooperatives that empowers the farmers.
  • Encourages long-term relationships with the farmers, which enables farmers to build for their future.
  • Uses environmentally sustainable practices. About 80 percent of Fair Trade coffee is shade grown.
  • Purchase of Fair Trade coffee in the U.S. is rising dramatically (from 1.5 million pounds in 1999 to 6.7 million in 2001), but it is still a tiny fraction of the coffee consumed here.


Shade-Grown, Organic Coffee

  • Retains biodiversity by growing coffee as part of a forest ecosystem that often includes other edible crops.
  • Maintains habitats that birds and other animals need.
  • Keeps soils healthier by avoiding use of chemicals.


The Point

  • What we buy and what we eat impacts the well-being of people and the planet.
  • By buying conventionally grown coffee we are supporting a system that exploits poor farmers and the environment.
  • By buying Fair Trade shade-grown coffee, we are supporting a system that gives farmers a better life and protects the Earth.
  • Universities across the country are joining “coffee campaigns” and bringing Fair-Trade Shade-Grown coffee to their campuses.
Document Actions
by Barnhill, David L. last modified Nov 02, 2011 12:16 PM
Producer Profile
Learn more about Fair Trade producers.


Fair Trade Universities