Coffee is a daily essential for many in the UK, and Fairtrade sales volumes grew over 2019 with a three percent increase. Yet in the global coffee market, prices continued to sit well below the Fairtrade Minimum Price. The low prices of coffee beans mean hardship for many farmers around the world, forced to sell at below the cost of production despite the continued demand. They struggle to make ends meet and feed their families. In some cases, they are forced to leave their farms. When coupled with the rising temperatures caused by climate change damaging crops and encouraging pests and disease, the outlook for the world’s coffee farms is starting to look bleak. Yet with greater income and support, farmers can tackle some of these issues.
For any sales coffee farmers made on Fairtrade terms in 2019, they were guaranteed a better-than-market rate, plus the Premium, a lifeline at a time when non-Fairtrade sales would likely have been below the cost of production. Many partners stepped up last year to do more for their farmers and workers with Waitrose & Partners converting all their coffee to 100 percent Fairtrade, as well as sourcing and launching the world’s first Fairtrade Java coffee. This was the culmination of several years of investment and support by the company in a coffee-producing co-operative, so that the farmers could achieve Fairtrade certification. John Lewis & Partners also converted all their coffee in cafés and retail to Fairtrade.
Indonesia is one of the largest producers of coffee in the world, producing 660,000 metric tons in 2017 alone. Although Java will be a familiar term to coffee drinkers, this will be the first Fairtrade Java available to buy on a supermarket shelf in Europe, which makes this launch incredibly exciting. Being 100 percent Fairtrade sourced, it’s also good for the environment and the communities where it is sourced.
Other partners also launched or added coffees to their ranges in 2019, such as Coca-Cola who launched Fairtrade certified Honest Coffee, kicking off a commitment by Honest to source Fairtrade ingredients and support a fair deal for farmers as part of the brand’s ‘Proof not Promises’ strategy.
Greggs continued with their phenomenal growth and support of Fairtrade farmers and workers with their commitments in coffee, and in all beverages, bananas, sugar and juice. To help them tell their Fairtrade story, we worked with Greggs to develop a toolkit of impact resources. Last year, Greggs’ commercial success and increased volumes made them the third largest out of home coffee-seller.
Other coffee highlights of 2019 included:
- Sodexo continued their support of women producers in Peru with their Coffee Growers Fund, empowering women by creating organic kitchen gardens and improving food security.
- We collaborated with Percol, one of the original supporters of Fairtrade and a leader in sustainable packaging, on a panel discussion on sustainability at the London Coffee Festival alongside Lavazza and Waitrose & Partners. Together, we highlighted the importance of sustainability as the coffee price crisis puts farmers in an impossible position.
- Coffee featured heavily in internal and external Fairtrade communications over the year. Although as we make clear in this post, the answer to many of the problems faced by farmers is simple – pay more.
- Fairtrade International launched the Fairtrade Coffee Standard Review in September. The aim was to improve the Fairtrade Standard for coffee, in order to improve the sustainability of coffee production and trade, through fairer trade practices and sustainable livelihoods for coffee producers and their families.
Grounds for change in coffee
The extra money helps me live a better life.
In Kenya, Fairtrade Africa has worked with a community to launch a women-only brand of coffee.
In the coffee-growing regions of East Africa, despite women carrying out up to 70 percent of labour on the family farm, it is still mainly men who are members of the co-operatives. They are the ones who mainly take part in training and, crucially, receive payment for the green coffee beans. Against this backdrop, the Growing Women in Coffee project has seen 480 women become members of two coffee co-operatives after they were gifted coffee bushes by their husbands and fathers, who recognised the importance of women having the opportunity to earn their own incomes. No wonder the women’s coffee is called Zawadi – ‘gift’ in Swahili.
Every bush became a business and has helped improve the livelihoods of entire families as women typically manage household incomes and family savings. Marion Ng’ang’a, an agronomist working with Fairtrade Africa who helped train the women as part of the project, said: ‘Firstly it’s about the women, but it’s also about the whole community. Giving the women economic empowerment – allowing them to own and nurture their own coffee bushes – means they can learn and help others learn.’
Marion supported the women to improve their yields and follow the best climate-friendly agricultural practices to produce the highest quality coffee. This has increased their income and they are now hoping to market a branded coffee. As part of the initiative, the women also benefit from projects such as rearing poultry, 42 biogas stove units (which produce a by-product for organic fertiliser), and a commercial maize mill to help generate further income or save money.
Esther Chepkwony, 56, described the impact of Growing Women in Coffee for herself and her community: ‘We are now able to get a loan from a financial institution, whereas this used to belong only in a man’s world. I’m now able to budget and take care of my children’s needs. I am a mother of nine children. The extra money helps me live a better life. The help I get is immeasurable.’