“Fair trade” has to do with various products, but coffee makes up the great majority (70%). Small producers in Latin America also produce 70% of the total coffee produced in the region, and “fair trade” is tied to organized small producers. What does this mean? This question gains relevance in the current situation of crisis for international fair trade, where “Fair Trade USA” just withdrew from “Fair Trade International” arguing “fair trade for all” and not just for small scale producers.
In this article we show the case of the cooperatives in Nicaragua, that greatly evolved in the last 30 years, attaining control over 20% of total coffee exports of the country, impacting national policies and impacting fair trade international policies in favor of the small producers of Latin American organized into the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Small Fair Trade Producers (CLAC).
What explains the leap forward of the cooperatives, when 20 years ago they did not even have 2% of exports? Our hypothesis is that the growing differentiation of coffee markets was responded to, more than by the private companies, by organizations of cooperatives in alliance with fair trade organizations; and that this model is capable of responding in volume and quality to the growing demand of the markets – which makes the separation of “Fair Trade USA” from the large family of “fair trade international” unnecessary.