Fairtrade coffee is a 'loud bandwagon'

Nothing beats a good coffee politics debate over coffee.

The Australian:

Phillip Di Bella, managing director of Brisbane's Di Bella Coffee, used a recent Fairtrade promotion to launch a stinging attack against the system, declaring it "a marketing ploy, tapping into the guilty conscience of the wealthy countries". Di Bella labelled Fairtrade a "loud bandwagon" that "breeds mediocrity" and worsens the plight of coffee growers in developing regions.


British-born author, activist and academic Raj Patel is wary of the feelgood factor. In his first book Stuffed and Starved, an exposé of the global food system, he draws saturnine conclusions about the organisation. "Mounting evidence suggests that Fairtrade is a thin patch on an unsustainable system," he writes. "[It] turns out to be a way for farmers, hanging on by their fingernails, to be able to hang on for a little longer."


While BP's Gulf of Mexico oil spill puts a big dent in its reputation, the company's 106 Australian service station cafes switched to Fairtrade coffee two years ago, becoming the first national cafe retailer to do so.

But tell that to the oil-soaked pelicans. Or small coastal businesses in the South. There really is a strong sense that government-friendly companies like BP have used environmental concerns to destroy less-government companies.  At least, their corporate eyes were not focused on the big picture. From your cup of coffee's water footprint to clever marketing ploys, the bean debates are here to stay.