Fair Trade USA and Partners Drive Record Growth in Coffee Imports, Returning $17 Million in Premiums to Farming Communities

Fair Trade USA and Partners Drive Record Growth in Coffee Imports, Returning $17 Million in Premiums to Farming Communities

Fair Trade USA Shares Results to Date of Innovations to Strengthen Cooperatives; Include More People; and Extend Opportunities for Multi-Stakeholder Participation
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Friday, April 13, 2012 - 4:00pm

CONTENT: Press Release

(3BL Media) Oakland, CA - April 13, 2012 – Fair Trade USA, the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States, today published its 2011 Almanac. New data reveals that the organization had another record setting year for coffee--over 138 million pounds of Fair Trade Certified™ coffee were imported into the United States, a 32 percent increase over 2010. This growth in imports enabled Fair Trade coffee cooperatives to earn an unprecedented $17 million in community development premiums, up 61 percent from 2010. These premiums are used for community-elected development projects in areas like education, healthcare, environment, business management, quality improvement and productivity. Since Fair Trade USA began operations in 1998, cooperatives have earned over $225MM in additional income through a combination of community development premiums and better prices.

The growth in market demand is fueled by current business partners increasing their commitment to Fair Trade, new business partners joining Fair Trade, and increased consumer demand. Fair Trade USA’s consumer education campaigns bring together brands, retailers, NGOs and community organizations. For example, during Fair Trade Month 2011, Fair Trade USA and their partners reached nearly 30 million consumers, reinforcing the message that every purchase matters.

“We are thrilled by the additional benefits farmers are receiving because of the recent momentum in both industry commitments and consumer demand,” said Mary Jo Cook, Chief Impact Officer at Fair Trade USA. “As our 2011 data shows, farming communities are receiving more benefit from Fair Trade than ever before, and we are working diligently to establish programs that will continue to strengthen cooperatives now and into the future.”

Record Co-op Link Funding Strengthens Farming Communities

Since 2006 Fair Trade USA and its partners have invested over $7.4 million in programs to help farmers improve quality, increase productivity, improve access to capital, and become stronger business partners. To continue this momentum, Fair Trade USA launched Co-op Link, an innovative new approach to development designed to connect organizations throughout the supply chain. Fair Trade USA surveyed farmers to better understand their most pressing needs, raised $2 million for producer programs in 2011 alone, and worked with NGO’s and local service providers to execute the programs. In the same year Fair Trade USA also helped facilitate $3 million in affordable trade finance loans to cooperatives.  

2011 Results Include:

  • A partnership with the World Bank and the Avina Foundation enabled Fair Trade USA to deliver price risk management training to 180 cooperatives in Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Guatemala, Mexico, and East Africa. 
  •  A three-year partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Progreso enabled a project to promote economic security and sustainable livelihoods for coffee farmers and beekeepers in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico.
  • A multi-year project, in partnership with the Rabobank Foundation and Progreso, with strategic support from Lutheran World Relief, focused on improving business practices and access to capital and markets for Fair Trade Certified cooperatives in Sumatra.

Innovating to Include More People

Last fall, Fair Trade USA announced that it would adapt existing Fair Trade standards for farm workers in products like tea, bananas, flowers, rice and cotton, and begin applying them to coffee. These changes will allow more coffee farmers – farm workers, pickers, and independent small farmers not organized into cooperatives –to access the benefits of Fair Trade.  Fair Trade USA committed to conducting 10 – 20 pilots over the next two years, applying learnings along the way, and studying results at both the individual farm and sector level.

Fair Trade USA is proud to announce that Fazenda Nossa Senhora de Fatima, a 100 percent organic farm in Brazil, has become the world’s first Fair Trade-Certified coffee estate.  The farm’s 110 workers democratically-elected a Fair Trade committee that voted to invest premium dollars in medical exams, eye care and dental services, along with access to computer training and English courses. In addition, the farm and the local union negotiated a 20-percent salary increase for field workers, based on the additional market access and sales anticipated through Fair Trade Certification.

Expanding Opportunities for Multi-Stakeholder Involvement

While Fair Trade USA’s Board of Directors has always included members from NGO’s, producer groups and business organizations, in 2011 Fair Trade USA publically committed to adding an additional producer partner to the board. Fair Trade USA has delivered on this commitment, with the additions of Carlos Alberto González, Commercial Director of the Coffee Cooperatives Division, Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) and Erik Nicholson, National Vice President of United Farm Workers of America (UFW).  Gonzalez and Nicholson bring decades of hands-on experience working with farmers and farm workers to the team. With long-time board member Carlos Vargas, leader of the award-winning CoopeTarrazu coffee cooperative in Costa Rica, these new members will ensure that existing Fair Trade producers, as well as farmers and workers who are not yet receiving the benefits of Fair Trade, are included in the governance and strategic direction of Fair Trade USA.

In addition, Fair Trade USA recently created the Coffee Innovation Council, composed of leaders from cooperatives, farm worker organizations, roasting companies and NGO’s. The Council advises Fair Trade USA on how to innovate and improve the current model for Fair Trade Certified coffee in order to increase positive impact for all participants  

“Co-op Link, the Coffee Innovation Council, and the strengthening of our board will all play an integral role in shaping the future of Fair Trade,” said Paul Rice, President and CEO of Fair Trade USA. “To build on 2011’s unprecedented results, to make a significant dent in global poverty, and to double the impact of Fair Trade, we must listen and learn from a wide variety of stakeholders. We must also continue to strengthen those farming communities who remain the backbone of Fair Trade, while carefully exploring how we might include more people in the benefits of this model.”


Fair Trade USA, a nonprofit organization, is the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States. Fair Trade USA audits and certifies transactions between U.S. companies and their international suppliers to guarantee that the farmers and workers producing Fair Trade Certified goods were paid fair prices and wages, work in safe conditions, protect the environment, and receive community development funds to empower and improve their communities. Fair Trade USA also educates consumers, brings new manufacturers and retailers into the Fair Trade system, and provides farming communities with tools, training and resources to thrive as international businesspeople. Visit www.fairtradeusa.org for more information.


Jenna Larson
Fair Trade USA