Beyond Fairtrade

Every so often food makes the national news, and whether Pork in Halal lunches, sugar causing diabetes, or the infamous ‘horse meat scandal’, it’s invariably negative. Typically, a lack of traceability is revealed, proving that too often we just don’t know what we are eating, or where and whom it came from.

Increased awareness has led to a shift in public opinion and increased scrutiny of origin and provenance, with many people seeking out formal certifications such as ‘Organic’ or ‘Fairtrade’.

Foodstuffs are increasingly part of a lifestyle choice - sustainable, ethical, healthy or local – rather than purely sustenance. People are showing more and more interest in production methods and provenance, searching out traditional techniques, assurances of animal welfare or supporting local and independent businesses with proven ethics and morals and eschewing mass produced foods where cost is the major consideration.

Fairtrade is a growing sector of the market with the big retailers increasing their offers as they follow public opinion and trend. That can only be good if you have even a modicum of concern for fellow human beings eking out a living in remote parts of the world, even if retailers’ motives are largely mercenary.

But there are producers who go way beyond the minimum standards required for accreditation, even if it is difficult for them to get their story out there, in a market dominated by the ‘big boys’ ad-campaigns. So they rely on independent retailers with the passion to seek out to tell their story, and it’s not too hard to find fantastic products with truly uplifting ‘beyond Fairtrade’ stories.

One industry where this is especially true is the global coffee industry: while dominated by the Nescafes and Kencos of this world, it is alive with exciting small producers.

One such, Café Femenino, was founded in 2004 when Peruvian women-farmers started producing a coffee with a female-only work force, and the goal of directing profits into their community. In the 10 years since, co-operatives have formed worldwide, from Colombia to Rwanda, Nicaragua to Bolivia, developing social programs, empowering female farmers, and improving gender equality in families, cooperatives, and communities. All their coffees are organic, sustainably farmed, and fantastic!

Farmers of Doi Chaang, Northern Thailand have a similarly uplifting story. For 20 years they received poor prices for their high quality, single estate, organic coffee from a local cooperative, which blended theirs with lesser quality beans. Then they established their own processing, drying and storage, and formed a joint venture with a sympathetic Canadian company. The 800 families involved now own 50% of the business and receive the market value of their premium product, rather than a standard ‘Fairtrade’ price.

We love quality of, and stories behind these and similar coffees, and we aim to get these uplifting stories out there. To this end, we are hosting an open day in Delilah where you can learn more, and try these world-class coffees. The event is free to attend and will be run in conjunction with Lee & Fletcher, a Nottingham based roaster of 20 years standing, onSeptember30th. Full details can be found at www.delilahfinefoods.co.uk