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Coffee is big business and remains one of the most valuable primary products in world trade. However, for many of the world’s 25 million coffee farmers, coffee is a labour intensive crop that frequently yields very little financial return.
Coffee is also enormously valuable to the economies of many developing countries. For some of the world’s Least Developed Countries, such as Burundi, the cultivation of coffee accounts for the majority of foreign exchange earnings, up to 80%. Most of the coffee-dependent workers worldwide are in developing countries, especially Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia and Mexico, the largest exporters of coffee.
The history of coffee on the world market has always been characterized by its high price volatility. This volatility prompted international governments to negotiate the first International Coffee Agreement to stabilize the coffee market in 1962. Quotas were introduced so that excessive coffee supplies were withheld from the market and coffee consumption was promoted.
Fairtrade Standards for coffee act as a safety net against the unpredictable market. They provide security to coffee producers so that they will get a price that covers their average costs of sustainable production.
Fairtrade coffee producers are small family farms organized in cooperatives or associations which the farmers own and govern democratically.