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Quindío – Coffee Cultivation and Free Trade vs Fair Trade — 3 Comments

  1. I think you are being a little hard on free trade here. It is actually doing good, by ensuring that the coffee is sold in the firs place. If coffee where sold at higher prices, a lot less coffee would be sold – which would mean alot of coffee farmers would run out of business.

    I think however fairtrade is good, because it gives me the option of buying that coffee that would have been more expensive – and making sure that the farmers also get a part of the revenue.

    So free trade makes sure there is a demand for coffee (we would not have a starbucks in every corner if it wasnt for free trade) and fair trade makes sure that people who want to do more good can do it.

    I follow this quite much, have a coffeshop myself where we only sell fairtrade coffee, and I run a blog about it http// – it is in swedish tho. But if you ever travel to sweden feel free to visit – and I will treat you with a good nice cup of fairtrade coffee 🙂

  2. Karsten,

    You raise very good points about affordable coffee (Starbucks on every corner) and possibly most costly fair trade coffee. Here in California, perhaps because we are closer to South and Central America, we can purchase fair trade coffee in small supermarkets and in independent coffee shops. For 12 ounces of fair trade coffee (.34 kilos), we pay anywhere from $8.95 to $17.95, with many kinds available at the low end.

    Would it be practical for a large number of coffee shops to purchase this way? In some cases here, a collective of 4-5 independent coffee shops have gone together and send a broker to purchase for them, with particular kinds of coffee repeated each year at harvest time.

    Truthfully, Starbucks or Folger’s or major grocery store chains could never offer this. On the positive side, though, the growers they buy from are able to offer schools, health care, and other benefits to the growers’ employees. This is just in the early stages, I would estimate.

    On the downside, I met a number of growers in Colombia who were letting their coffee plants go untended because they could not afford to break even or even lose a small amount of money. Was this a large group? If I remember correctly, we only spoke with four and were told there were many more.

    I am glad that this is a topic that interests you and that you are researching it.

    I have not been to Sweden since 1980 when I photographed the world’s hot air balloon race in Uppsala in what was described as the worst winter in 100 years. Very much fun, despite the weather.

  3. Much of what is produced in Brazil, however, is grown on vast coffee farms. For a more intimate Latin American coffee-plantation experience, try Colombia. Here, in the foothills of the Cordillera Central, many of the small-scale local producers have started running coffee finca (farm) tours and stays. Similar to the Italian agriturismo concept, travellers can pay to visit farms in three regions – Quindio, Caldas and Risaralda. Some of the best are listed (in Spanish) on the Quindio tourism website (

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