Fair Trade and Direct Trade are terms that apply to a means of purchasing coffee and other agricultural products grown abroad. Both Direct Trade and Fair Trade serve to promote environmental protection, economic sustainability and the rights of laborers and farmers alike. This is accomplished by setting standards that must be met by the grower to receive the designation of being either Direct Trade or Fair Trade Certified. In the case of Fair Trade, these standards are regulated by Fair Trade USA, a non-profit third party. Direct Trade standards are determined and regulated by the roaster themselves, who visit the farm regularly to ensure all standards are being met and determine the quality of the coffee.
Both systems accomplish many of the same things. Both set prices above the cost of production for the farmer and have environmental regulations regarding disposal of hazardous and organic waste, maintenance of natural resources, and the use of herbicides and pesticides. Each system addresses labor issues, ensuring workers are paid minimum wage and health and safety standards are being met.
Not necessarily. While there are many similarities there are differences too. Currently, Fair Trade certification is only available to small, organized, democratic co-op farms, where the farmer must pay annual certification fees upwards to $10,000 to be eligible. This makes it nearly impossible for individual farmers to receive the Fair Trade designation. Direct Trade on the other hand, sees individual roasters building strong relationships with all farmers, who meet their standards, at no extra cost to the farmer.
Of major significance is the question of quality control. Directly Traded coffee not only meets standards of economic, social and environmental sustainability that often exceed that of Fair Trade USA. Roasters are also highly invested in the quality of the coffee. It must be superb. At this time Fair Trade does not regulate the quality of the coffee, except to ensure the conditions under which it was grown. Direct Trade does both.
“With Direct Trade…farmers are not rewarded for merely growing coffee, they are rewarded for growing exceptional coffee under studious conditions. It takes years of hard work and specialized growing, cultivation and processing practices to produce the quality of coffee our roasters are after. If these high standards can be successfully met, the standard commodity price is cast aside and the farmer is paid a premium, based on how good and how the rare the coffee is, with consideration given to the costs necessary to bring it to this point.” - Mike Klassen, President, Blue Tiger Coffee Service
What Our Roasters Have to Say
Why Farm Direct?
The supply chain for coffee is complex and multifaceted. No existing certification encompasses the variety of criteria we find essential to our business and many growers do not have the access or capital to obtain certifications. By purchasing directly from farms, co-ops, or farmer groups we are able to establish the dialogue necessary to encourage quality, sustainability, and growth.
What is the impact of Farm Direct to the farmer, roaster, & consumer?
Among many other things . . .
- For the farmer it means receiving a better price for their coffee, feedback on how to improve quality, and assurance for future purchases.
- For the roaster it means a better understanding of the coffee and culture associated with it, the ability to work directly and communicate our expectations for quality and sustainability.
- For the consumer it means a better cup of coffee, and a deeper understanding of the conditions in which it is grown and factors influencing the cup.
How does it promote economic and environmental sustainability?
By rewarding quality with a higher price we are encouraging the production of more quality coffee. Thankfully, the best coffee in the world is grown in a diverse, shade environment. We actively seek out farmers who are dedicated to organic and bio-dynamic methods, as well as those who take active responsibility in improving their communities.