The power of your cup on National Coffee Day

Americans drink more than 400 million cups of coffee per day. If we all woke up tomorrow and made just one cup Fair Trade Certified, we would drive at least an additional $2 million dollars back to coffee farmers to help them address some serious challenges. In just one day. Because of one little choice. Amazing, right?

Why this matters: National Coffee Day is coming up and, let’s face it, most of us won’t make it past noon without a good cup of joe (or three). And our addiction is growing. Purchases of coffee pods, exotic beans and other “specialty” coffee offerings have skyrocketed in recent years, pushing the value of the industry to over $48 billion in the US alone. 

Challenges in Coffee

You might think our collective coffee habit would guarantee prosperity to the people behind the beans. But few of the 25 million people on the front line - the producers - are benefiting from our caffeine addiction. In fact, producers in Latin America today are making LESS than their grandparents made decades ago. All of this is made worse by low market prices, climate change, and other crippling issues. Unless something is done, our demand could outpace supply. If we want to save the future of coffee, we must understand and address the challenges producers face. 


It’s time for us all to wake up and smell the coffee.


Extreme Working Conditions

Growing and harvesting coffee is not for the faint of heart. Producers must weed, spray, fertilize and prune the plants, then pick, sort and transport the beans. Many do so without the proper protective equipment, leaving them vulnerable to illness and injury. In addition, because coffee grows best at high altitudes, producers must haul heavy sacks of coffee beans across steep, treacherous terrain just to get them to market. 


Coffee growers can receive as little as three cents of the $3.50 we pay for a cup of coffee at our local cafe. Fluctuating market prices (which once again are too low) and the cost of farming inputs whittle away at this already low figure. In Colombia, for example, high fertilizer costs push down producers’ annual profits to $2,340, or $195 per month, to feed a family of four or five.

Thus begins a vicious cycle. Coffee producers harvest and sell, making just enough to make ends meet. The money to invest in additional land or improved farming techniques - things that might increase profits - simply isn’t there. 

Climate Change and Disease

Environmental changes pose a dire threat to producers’ livelihoods. In Brazil, the world’s largest coffee exporter, production of Robusta coffee dropped 24 percent in the 2015-16 season due to drought, and the Climate Institute estimates that by 2050, rising global temperatures and decreased rainfall will reduce areas suitable for coffee growth by approximately 50 percent worldwide. Even where coffee can be grown, bountiful harvests are far from assured. Parasites, fungi and weeds can destroy entire harvests in the blink of an eye - hits that most coffee producers simply cannot take.

That is a lot to take in. We’re right there with you. But the story doesn't have to end there. You can help us write a better future for coffee producers. All you have to do is drink a cup of Fair Trade Certified coffee.



The fair trade difference

Fair trade supports coffee producers in crisis in two main ways. The first is the Fair Trade Standard, which all coffee producers must meet to earn certification. The Standard has over 200 criteria that work to provide producers with safe working conditions and environmentally-friendly farming practices. It also guarantees a minimum price for coffee - $1.40 per pound - which acts as a safety net when the coffee market dips too low. Every bag, cup, and bottle of Fair Trade Certified coffee comes from a farm with these conditions in place.

The second is the Fair Trade Community Development Fund, an additional $0.20 that producers earn for every pound of coffee you buy. Producers democratically designate this money for critical community projects like education, healthcare and crop quality improvement. To date, coffee drinkers have generated more than $200 million through fair trade for coffee producers to improve their lives. You contribute to these funds every time you choose Fair Trade Certified coffee. 

Together, Fair Trade Standards and the Community Development Fund offer a tangible way for you to make a difference. Filling your mug with Fair Trade Certified coffee is an easy way to protect producers from volatile market prices and enable them to invest in their communities and futures. To take our impact even further, we've launched an initiative called #JustOneCup. 

Join the #JustOneCup challenge

In honor of National Coffee Day, we as an organization are challenging everyone to make #JustOneCup of their daily coffee Fair Trade Certified. This simple change will generate millions of additional dollars for coffee producers throughout the world, helping them build sustainable livelihoods and ensuring a ready supply of coffee for generations to come. Below are a few of our favorite options: 

Thanks to fair trade, millions of coffee producers are investing in their futures, thousands of brands are pursuing more sustainable sourcing options, and coffee drinkers everywhere are asking where their coffee comes from. Together, we are waking up. Together, we are building a better coffee industry.

And it all starts with your cup.

We hope you’ll join us in honoring coffee producers this National Coffee Day, one cup at a time.