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Fairtrade doesn't mean you get the best coffee, says Rob Butterworth owner of Bury St Edmunds coffee shop Guats Up!

Is your coffee Fairtrade?

No, is the short answer. But let me tell you why. . .

Fairtrade is a registered trademark, a brand, an identity for a company whose policies provide an additional income for those that are fortunate enough to be able to meet the criteria to sell through the fairtrade scheme. The scheme ensures producers receive at least a minimum amount that exceeds the ‘C’ Market price, the commodity exchange which trades at the New York Intercontinental exchange.

How Fair is Fairtrade?

The C price as of writing (06/08) is 90.5c/lb (FOB), the Fairtrade base price is $1.40/lb. A Premium of 20c/lb is also added which goes straight to the producer/co-op. That sounds fantastic but when you take into consideration that, in Peru, for example, the cost of production is $1.35, there’s little to play with there.

Above & beyond Fairtrade

Where the Fairtrade price may guarantee a better income, it isn’t a mark of quality, schemes like Cup of Excellence do a far better job of promoting quality compared to Fairtrade. We sell a variety of coffees but we buy based on quality not on certification persay. These coffees fetch far higher prices in the Specialty market and at times we have paid for coffee four times the fairtrade minimum. One of our suppliers has produced a transparency pricing structure $/lb which I include below.

The FOB price is $3.55/lb, considerably higher than the Fairtrade base.

Not the complete picture of the breakdown of costings to cup but I think it shows that buying quality coffee through independent coffee shops and roasters is the fairest deal right the way through the supply chain.

*The prices are in US Dollars per pound of green exportable coffee

Farmgate price $2.70

Local warehousing & logistics $0.08

Export Prep: Dry milling, Sorting & Bagging $0.24

Export Taxes $0.18

Total Delivered Costs $3.55

Logistics (Ocean freight, insurance, etc) $0.13

Customs fees and container delivery $0.06

Finance & Warehouse $0.16

Price of the coffee $4.25

Overhead Costs and Margin (20%) $0.70

Rob owns Butterworth & Son coffee roasters and tea smiths, based on Moreton Hall, and Guat’s Up! café in Guildhall Street.

His job takes him around the world visiting coffee farms to source great coffees.