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 A letter about free trade compared to fair trade, by John E. Peck of the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice

How I Became Guilt Free Through Fair Trade!
                                    By: John E. Peck 
                                    WI Network for Peace and Justice (
                                    Many people in the U.S. drink coffee or eat
                                    chocolate everyday without ever thinking about where
                                    they come from and who produced them.  Neither of
                                    these products grows in the U.S. and  along with
                                    petroleum - they are among the most important
                                    commodities in worldwide trade. The rude reality
                                    behind coffee, though, would leave a bad taste in
                                    most peoples mouths and chocolate hardly seems a
                                    good way to celebrate Valentines Day once one knows
                                    its horrid history.
                                    There are over 250 million coffee growers in the
                                    world and most of them earn less than $300 per year.
                                    Migrant pickers face incredible abuse on corporate
                                    plantations  they call them sweatshops in the
                                    fields  while middlemen, nicknamed coyotes in
                                    Latin America, take advantage of those family
                                    farmers who try to raise coffee on their own. 
                                    Meanwhile, people in the U.S. drink 20% of the
                                    worlds coffee and pay up to $3.00 for a fancy latte
                                    at outfits like Starbucks.  Procter & Gamble, the
                                    maker of Folgers, earned over $1 billion last year,
                                    paying a mere 50 cents per pound for coffee on the
                                    global market.  
                                    Chocolate is even worse since corporations like M&M
                                    Mars, Nestle, Cadbury-Schwepps, and Hersheys depend
                                    upon cheap imports from West Africa or Indonesia
                                    where hundreds of thousands of children work on
                                    plantations instead of going to school, some in
                                    veritable slavery.  "The beatings were a part of my
                                    life," a 14 year old in Cote dIvoire, West Africa,
                                    Aly Diabate, told reporters in 2001. "Anytime they
                                    loaded you with bags [of cocoa] and you fell while
                                    carrying them, nobody helped you. Instead, they beat
                                    you and beat you until you picked it up again." It
                                    takes 400 cocoa pods to make 1 pound of chocolate,
                                    yet Aly had never tasted the cause of his slavery.
                                    Thankfully, there is an alternative and that is
                                    found in fair trade.  Fair trade is based on several
                                    common sense principles:  that farmers should
                                    receive a fair price for their product, that workers
                                    deserve a living wage, that consumers have the right
                                    to know about what they buy, that nature be
                                    protected from destruction, and that communities
                                    have the final say over how their economy is run.  
                                    The fair trade movement began in Europe in the late
                                    1980s and is highly developed there, while in the
                                    U.S. it is just starting to take-off.  Last year,
                                    total fair trade sales in Canada, the U.S. and the
                                    Pacific Rim exceeded $250 million
                                    (  There are now over
                                    600,000 people in 32 countries involved in producing
                                    fair trade coffee, tea, cocoa, and bananas.  Over
                                    10,000 retailers and 200 universities in the U.S.
                                    now offer fair trade coffee on a daily basis  not
                                    just for special occasions.
                                    To give some specific examples, the Divine Chocolate
                                    Project uses fair trade to link 40,000 cocoa farmers
                                    in Ghana, West Africa, to chocolate lovers around
                                    the globe.  Their farmer cooperative, called Kuapa
                                    Kokoo, devotes part of what it earns each year
                                    towards community development projects such as
                                    providing school scholarships and supplying clean
                                    drinking water.  Divine Chocolate is now found in
                                    many better groceries and coffeeshops - you can
                                    find out where it is available by contacting SERRV
                                    in Madison, WI  #608-251-0430 (toll free
                                    #888-294-9657) or visiting:
                                    Just Coffee is another successful fair trade
                                    initiative, importing coffee from as far away as
                                    East Timor, Chiapas (Mexico), and Ethiopia for
                                    processing and distribution to delis, coffeeshops
                                    and co-ops throughout the Midwest.  On a windy day
                                    in Madison you can literally smell their coffee
                                    roaster a mile away.  The farmers who are partners
                                    with Just Coffee receive 3-4 times the world coffee
                                    price for their work.  Part of the proceeds from
                                    certain varieties of Just Coffee also go to good
                                    causes  for instance, Peace Coffee supports the
                                    Madison Area Peace Coalition, Un Centavo Mas Coffee
                                    supports the labor struggle of the Coalition of
                                    Immokalee Workers against Taco Bell, and Grounds for
                                    Democracy Coffee supports the Democracy Now
                                    alternative indymedia project.   You can find out
                                    more by calling #608-204-9011 or visiting:
                                    Many people are worried about the power of
                                    multinational corporations and the threat to our
                                    democracy posed by such entities as the World Trade
                                    Organization (WTO), but they dont know what to do
                                    about it.  Fair trade is one simple answer.  Every
                                    day as a smart consumer you can vote with your
                                    dollar for the type of world you really want to see.
                                     Ask for fair trade coffee or chocolate next time
                                    youre at a café or grocery, and if the person
                                    behind the counter doesnt grasp what youre talking
                                    about, let them know!  Help put social justice back
                                    into your cup of java and bar of candy.