The Fair Trade v. Direct Trade debate — to the extent that people are still having it — is fueled by caricatures of each approach that may reflect some grain of truth but ultimately misrepresent the realities of both.
I am still trying to understand how Direct Trade works on the ground, and how we, as a development agency working to promote more sustainable and fair trading models, should advise smallholder farmers to approach it. As part of my own ongoing education in Direct Trade, I have been seeking out different perspectives on Direct Trade and finding plenty of good resources.
For smallholder farmers, getting to the outer bounds of the quality spectrum — and staying there — is hard work. The marginal return on that effort — especially in a high market — may be negligible. So while we continue to promote a holistic approach to quality from the seedling to the mill, we are also continually asking ourselves how far to ride the wave of upward pressure on quality coming from the market end of the chain.
Over the past week and a half, I have been posting on the issue of how coffee companies are investing at origin. Today: what they are investing in, and how that may be changing.
The most important divide in the discussion around coffee and development is the gap between coffee chain issues (productivity, quality, etc.) and issues that arise from beyond the coffee chain. The issue that bridges the gap? The price companies pay for their coffee.
I met at SCAA with Thanksgiving Coffee President Ben Corey-Moran, who explained that the company will be focusing more moving forward on its “core business model.” As it turns out, his concept of the company’s core business model includes innovative partnerships with NGOs in East Africa to create incentives for effective climate change mitigation and adaptation. It seems the concept of the “core business model” in the coffee industry may be evolving.