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Organic Consumers Association

Starbucks Ignores Customer Demands for More Fair Trade Coffee

This week, Starbucks announced the release of yet another coffee product - their VIA French Roast. And yet again, their new offering is not Fair Trade. As the economy recovers and coffee sales grow, will Starbucks begin to listen to consumer demand for more Fair Trade coffee? Or will the java giant keep selling beans grown by exploited workers around the world?

Despite being the second most valuable commodity in the world after oil, there is significant human trafficking and exploitation in the coffee industry. Across Central and South America and Africa, workers on large plantations are often forced to harvest and dry beans for long hours with little or no pay. Small farmers then have trouble competing with the low prices of the large growers, in part because of their use of child and exploited labor. But slavery in the coffee industry happens in the U.S., too. For example, Kaua'i Coffee, a Hawaii-based brand, was recently cited for using six enslaved Thai workers on their plantation. In other words, where coffee is grown, workers are often exploited.

One of the best ways to combat human trafficking and exploitation in the coffee industry is with Fair Trade certified coffee. Fair Trade coffee means that small coffee farmers get a living wage for their work, and that no child, forced, or slave labor was used in the production of that coffee. As demand for Fair Trade coffee grows, more farmers will seek Fair Trade certification. And that will mean getting rid of forced and child labor and paying all workers a decent wage.


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