The Menlo Roundtable

Weak Coffee: The Shortcomings of the Fair Trade Coffee Movement in Bringing Farmers Out of Poverty

This paper examines the effectiveness of the fair trade coffee movement, founded in 1962 by the United Nations, in bringing farmers in developing countries out of poverty.

The movement was well-intentioned, and individual coffee growers have bettered their lives by getting involved in fair trade. However, the fair trade coffee movement has not proven to be wholly successful in its mission to bring poor coffee growers out of poverty. To begin, the Western world is an extremely difficult market for fair trade coffee sellers to succeed in, let alone become a mainstream product. Furthermore, the system itself is flawed, as only a very small percentage of all poor coffee growers are even being helped.

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