Fair Trade Facts: What is fair trade?

The history of fair trade

Coffee beans and cup

These coffee beans are certified fair
trade by TransFair USA, the only fair trade
certification program in the United States.

The fair trade label was created in the Netherlands in 1989 under the brand name Max Havelaar, taken from the title of a 19th-century novel about oppressed coffee plantation workers. As the fair trade label became a recognizable, viable movement, several groups from around Europe adopted the initiative, many under the name of TransFair. The movement eventually came to the United States in 1996 and called itself TransFair USA. The goal of TransFair USA is to ensure that small coffee farmers get a decent price for their beans, and to let consumers know it. TransFair USA is the only FLO-affiliated, non-profit fair trade certification program in the United States.

In 1997, the fair trade organizations formed an international group called Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International, known as FLO. The 17-member organization follows a set criteria which defines what fair trade means for each product certified under the fair trade system, including coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar, honey, bananas and orange juice. For each product, there is a registry of farmers who have undergone a formal application process and have been approved to sell their crop under the fair trade label. The FLO maintains various monitoring and certification programs, which supervises the associations of fair trade farmers in each country where coffee is grown.

© 2006 by Mesa Johnson
E-mail me at mmjohnson2@stthomas.edu