Direct Trade - What it means and why we're different
Our passion is coffee and the farms we work with in Tanzania and Brazil (and hopefully elsewhere in the future). We set up in 2006 and in relationship with farms and villages soon realised the poorest and most vulnerable were the ones most easily slipping through the system. We work directly, and buy directly from these farms and villages. We offer complete transparency of the whole process, not just traceability. It is easy to trace a source but information on how much producers are paid and what conditions they have is elusive. We know the names of the producers we work with, and can tell you exactly how much they are paid. Unfortunately this is not possible through the Fairtrade certified system. It really depends on whether the heart of fair trade or the brand is most important. Not to say the Fairtrade Foundation don't do good work, far from it, but often there are better options if consumers will discern for themselves and hold other companies accountable. We started off convinced by Fairtrade ourselves until we got on the ground and had to make a decision to either appear to be making a difference, or really making a difference to people who need it.
Some of the producers we work with, Fairtrade will not work with (they are too small, and too poor to pay fees - so they're the very people who need help the most, ironic!) If you really want to help the poorest producers and transform lives of families then direct trade* is the best approach.
*Direct trade is a popular phrase and for some would simply mean getting a cheaper price and then covering it with good language about traceability. For others it may mean they have visited the farm once before. Therefore we would caveat our advice not just to believe text on a website or the back of a coffee bag, but to ask hard questions, and seek firm evidence of claims made.
This is a complex and passionate topic for us so we could write a lot but here are the bullet points:
- We're not against Fairtrade, we simply believe in even more.
- Fair trade is a heart value, not a brand. It's about justice, not marketing.
- Direct Trade means we know the producer and we buy direct from them.
- Direct Trade means we're transparent about the whole process.
- Direct Trade means we check on the social and environmental concerns on the farm or in the village.
- Direct Trade means we cut out some of the middle men which allows us to be competitive at this end of the market whilst giving high rewards to the producer at origin. Our raw coffee price is on par with similar high grade arabica bought through traders here in the UK, except a significantly higher percentage stays with the producer.
- 'Ethical' means everything we do. It's not just an option, or part of our business. We set the bar high for ourselves.
- We love coffee and believe in the best. This also helps producers improve quality, which improves sustainability, and profitability for them.
- We are committed for the long-term and have sustainable relationships with our producers.
- We love to be generous and contribute to social projects in addition to premium prices paid, which aids improving production and/or quality of life.
- We also have been long-term supporters of Amigos Charity in Uganda.
Conor Woodman - an investigative journalist - has looked at who we are and what we claim to do. He has visited the farms and villages and writes about us in his book UnFair Trade. His research of us and many others makes interesting observations and conclusions.
But if there's something you want to ask please contact us.