• The origin of fairtrade coffee


    As a consequence of growing awareness of differences in development between North and South, small groups of consumers organized so-called Third World shops, which sold products from developing countries that were purchased under just conditions from small producers. Initially, such shops were simply a table in the church after Sunday service but gradually they have evolved and, as in the case of the Fairtrade movement, have become professional franchise organizations with turnovers of several million United States dollars. Coffee typically constitutes up to 50% of their sales as they usually supply a lot of coffee to institutional markets and caterers.

    Originally consumer coffees from such alternative trade organizations were sold only through their own outlets or by mail order operated by volunteers. Usually they reached only the people who were prepared to make a detour to buy their coffee in a Third World shop instead of in their normal supermarket.

    Therefore, at the request of small growers in Mexico (UCIRI), in 1988 a Netherlands NGO, Solidaridad, took the initiative to start the Max Havelaar certification system for Fairtrade coffee (and subsequently also for other products) with the goal of bringing these coffees into conventional supermarket channels.

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