Forging New Consumer/ Producer Links in Fair Trade Coffee Networks

Laura Raynolds
Publication Date: 
Though the international trade in Fair Trade labeled products is quite young and represents only a minor share of the global market, this trade has grown dramatically in recent years. The world market for Fair Trade products is currently valued at US$ 400 million, with sales growing at close to 30 percent per year (Fair Trade Federation 2000). There are currently 800 producer organizations in 45 countries of the South producing Fair Trade items, most importantly food commodities like coffee, bananas, cocoa, sugar, honey, tea, and orange juice (EFTA 1998). Coffee, the first labeled commodity, continues to lead the Fair Trade system.
Recently established initiatives in North America are making Fair Trade commodities available outside the movement’s European home and fueling their rapid growth. The introduction of Fair Trade labeled coffee in the United States has doubled the world market in just a few years. While the Fair Trade movement’s market success is impressive, I suggest that its true significance lies not in its market share (which will presumably always be relatively small), but in its ability to create progressive new consumer / producer links which span the North South divide.