In Brazil there are approximately 6,000 small-scale coffee farmers who are members of Fair Trade CertifiedTM small farmer organizations. Last week Fair Trade USA received a letter from Coocafe, a Brazilian cooperative made up of 5,000 of these 6,000 small farmers. The translated letter below – which has been posted with the permission of Coocafe – expresses their support for broadening the benefits of Fair Trade to include farm workers on large coffee farms while simultaneously strengthening coffee cooperatives to ensure they continue to benefit as well.
Dear Paul Rice
President of Fair Trade USA
Greetings from Coocafe’s Administrative Council. Coocafe is a cooperative that represents 5,000 Brazilian small coffee farmers and their families. We are located in a mountainous region in the forests of the states of Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo, where mechanization is not possible because of the topography.
We are Fair Trade Certified since 2005, which has helped a lot for the social, economic and environmental sustainability of all the farmers. Fair Trade is extremely important for all of us.
We vehemently defend the importance of cooperative organization and of Fair Trade for small farmers and we understand that this is the only way for small farmers to survive.
Coocafe believes that the Fair Trade movement must support farm workers in coffee farms and also small farmers that are still not part of a cooperative, and that it is important and necessary to work to include them in cooperatives.
The commitment to bring social justice and sustainability to all the rural community is at the heart of Fair Trade. We support efforts to pilot new Fair Trade standards that could provide opportunities and benefits for farm workers in Brazil and around the world. However, the expansion of Fair Trade standards must be carried out in a manner that does not hurt cooperative farmers and that increases benefits for them.
It is important to be very studious in choosing the groups/farms for the pilots and to have limits in their participation in the market. We see larger farms participating, and believe they should be a maximum in 10% of the Fair Trade sales to the U.S. market. In that way we will not create unfair competition with the Fair Trade cooperatives that also need access to the market. With that we will live together in harmony.
We believe there is space for smallholders, cooperatives and farm workers to work together in the Fair Trade movement. We need that in this process of opening the system the market for the cooperatives is secured and increased, in Europe and the U.S.
“Fair Trade for All” is a powerful vision for the future. We hope that one day all trade is Fair. The cooperative movement aims for the development of everyone and here we learn that the problems need to be faced with disposition, creativity and a lot of dialogue. We are confident in the future of our cooperative and the Fair Trade movement.
Fernando Romeiro de Cerqueira
In the name of the Administrative Council – Coocafe
We greatly appreciate Mr. de Cerqueira and Coocafe’s support for Fair Trade USA’s efforts to expand the reach of Fair Trade so that cooperatives and farm workers can work together in the Fair Trade movement. Fair Trade USA is committed to openness, transparency, and learning throughout our piloting phase. We will be consistently monitoring, evaluating, and reporting our progress on the pilot programs, at both the farm and sector level. Like Mr. de Cerqueira and Coocafe, we too hope that one day all trade is Fair.
Fair Trade USA understands that in times of growth and change there is often uncertainty, and we encourage open, honest, and respectful debate. We encourage those who are interested in learning more to visit www.FairTradeForAll.com as we continue to invest in and support co-ops to ensure they remain strong and competitive now and in the future, while simultaneously carefully innovating so we can deliver more impact to more people.