Thursday, January 13, 2011

Portland Roasting Company & Farm Friendly Direct

There is growing concern of the affects of industrialized nations on developing countries and their communities in terms of trade: low wages, poor working conditions, subsidies on agriculture, and the growing inequality gap between the rich and poor (Hunger Notes, n.d.).  With coffee being the world’s most important traded commodity, after petroleum, one should stop and wonder what affect we are having on the coffee farming communities (Holland, 2003). 

The article by Wallengren gives an example:
Serving as grim proof of the severity of the social crisis in Mexico caused by low international coffee prices, most of the immigrants found dead in the Arizona desert last week came from coffee-producing areas. Fleeing the crisis in Mexico's second largest producing state of Veracruz, six of the 14 dead were identified as small coffee farmers, some of the thousands who have been heading to the U.S. to try their luck as illegal immigrants. 

Many Mexican coffee farmers were forced to leave their farms as they were only receiving 60 cents per pound for the coffee they produced, which was not even enough to cover the cost of production, let alone provide them wages to buy food and support their families.

Fair Trade and the Rainforest Alliance were the first to establish goals at supporting the farmers around the globe.  According to the International Fair Trade Association (IFAT), “Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers, especially in the South (Tribes, 2009).  

Although it is not as well known as the conventional third-party certification organizations such as Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance, Farm Friendly Direct (FFD) is a solid certification system for coffee that is gaining exposure in the marketplace.  Portland Roasting Company (PRC) was faced with the challenge of whether to continue with FFD, as it may have hinder the company’s’ competitive edge to grow regionally and be ranked with other leading coffee companies, such as Starbucks or Caribou Coffee. 

FFD works a bit differently than third-party coffee certifiers, such as Fair Trade, since FFD works direct with companies, linking the grower and the retailer directly.  Although companies pay more for the coffee beans through FFD, the “cooperative relationship yields high-quality coffee” and gives back to the growing community (Portland Roasting Company, n.d., para. 2).  With the middleman removed, overhead is significantly less, for both the grower and the retailer, and the difference in money is used for local community improvement projects where the coffee is grown (The Human Bean, n.d.).  Fair Trade certification, on the other hand, uses FLO-CERT to certify the farms and then FLO International, a separate division, to provide rights to use the Fair Trade label (FLO-CERT, n.d.).  PRC explains the goals of FFD as two fold, “acquiring quality coffee while adding to the lives of farmers and their communities” (Portland Roasting Company, n.d., para. 3).  With a vested interest in the community where raw goods are produced, PRC is securing their investment in the coffee and allowing the community to provide a continuously safe and quality product.  

As the global economy continues to grow and the demand for trade increases, as pioneers of sustainability we must continue to look at how we are affecting the communities of developing countries; buying local and organic products is simply not enough.  PRC is leading the way with their sustainable practice of using FFD coffee certification.  Since coffee is a good that must be traded with other countries, it is extremely noble of PRC and others using FFD that they are supporting coffee growing communities to the degree that they are helping them to become self-sufficient.  By providing fair wages and allowing extra funds to plant trees, build water pumps and treatment facilities, and to build and fund schools, PRC is helping to bridge the destructive gap between the rich and the poor, allowing these communities to strive and grow.

FLO-CERT. (n.d.) Scope of certification. Retrieved from http://www.flo-cert.net/flo-cert/main.php?id=14

HollandbyMail. (2003). World coffee trade. Retrieved from http://www.hollandbymail.com/coffee/coffee_trade.html

Hunger Notes. (n.d.). Special report: trade between developed and developing countries,  Retrieved from http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/global/Trade/trade.htm

Portland Roasting Company. (n.d.) Linking coffee and community. Retrieved from http://www.portlandroasting.com/ffd/

Pullman, M., Arends, B., Langston, M., Price, G. & Stokes, G. (2001). Portland Roasting Company: farm friendly direct. Retrieved from http://marylhurst.courseobjects.net/items/4ece2fa8-0d17-7fa2-bfae-cdb0d5ca97e0/1/Portland%20Roasting%20Company%20Case.pdf

The Human Bean. (n.d.). Farm Friendly Direct. Retrieved from http://www.thehumanbean.com/SectionIndex.asp?SectionID=9

Tribes Travel. (2009). What is fair trade? Retrieved from http://www.tribes.co.uk/responsible_travel/what_is_fair_trade

Wallengren, M. (2001, May 29). Coffee crisis sends Mexico producers to death in Arizona. Retrieved from http://www.globalexchange.org/campaigns/fairtrade/coffee/dowjones052901.html

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