Fair-trade coffee worth the added price

Your April 13 article "Small coffee brewers try to redefine fair trade" painted an inaccurate picture of the fair-trade coffee movement, which aims to provide coffee farmers a livable wage and bring greater environmental and economic sustainability to the coffee industry. It didn't tell the whole story of farmer fees, and it overlooked TransFair USA's record of evenhandedness with large and small companies.

For 15 years, farmers paid nothing for fair-trade certification. Eventually, farmer demand for certification grew so dramatically that the Fair Labeling Organization (FLO) inspected only cooperatives that had a buyer. Farmer representatives on the FLO board unanimously approved farmer fees, and the system enjoys broad support. To farmers, certification is a high-return investment. "Fair Trade Certified" coffee sells for 80 percent more than conventional coffee.
Christopher Himes
Oakland, Calif.Director of Certification, TransFair USA

I represent a consortium of 2,000 family farmers for whom the value of being able to participate in the fair-trade system far outweighs the new costs charged for fair trade certification.

In 2003, we sold approximately 1.75 million pounds to the fair-trade market, which yielded $980,000 in additional income. Our certification costs for this volume would be approximately $14,850, or just 1.5 percent of our fair-trade earnings. In this time of crisis in coffee prices, access to the fair-trade market provides us, our families, and communities with hope, dignity, and a better standard of living.
Pedro Haslam
Matagalpa, NicaraguaGeneral Manager, La Central de Cooperativas Cafetaleras del Norte

The departure of Larry's Beans from TransFair USA should not be seen as a blow to the fair-trade movement. Branching off is a logical next step for companies that are 100 percent committed to fair trade. The future of the fair-trade movement, however, does not lie in companies carrying one or two varieties of fair-trade coffee or a minimum percent of volume. Its success rests in the achievements of companies dedicated to being 100 percent fair trade and changing the way people look at trade.
Sean J. Marlowe
Raleigh, N.C.The writer is the community outreach envoy for Larry's Beans.

Bush and Kerry's differences on Iraq

Your April 15 article "For Kerry, a balancing act on war" that compared the public positions of President Bush and John Kerry on Iraq would have benefited from a clearer recognition of two facts. The two men are in a different situation: Bush must deal with the immediate situation; the senator cannot be specific because he is contemplating future action to be taken under unpredictable circumstances. If President Bush does seek support from international bodies it will be as a last resort; Kerry would do so as the expression of a new philosophy.
Hilton Turner
New Wilmington, Pa.

Recognize South African gains

Your April 14 editorial "Empowering Blacks in S. Africa" does not recognize the accomplishments of the South African government in securing a stable, egalitarian, and economically viable society. You overlook the strides that President Thabo Mbeki has made in his brief tenure. Ten years ago, South African blacks had no ownership rights, power of movement, or voting rights. Now black South Africans can climb the economic ladder with government support. That is an accomplishment worth cherishing.
Jason Fellner
San Francisco

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