Saturday, July 01, 2006

Fair prices!

And while waiting in the line I see a “Fair Trade Certified” coffee that on its label promises that its purchase will improve the lives of coffee farmers by insuring they receive a guaranteed “fair price for their harvest”.

I could not resist such an enticement and I bought a cup of it. It was great, and like any truly good coffee it made my mind wander. What does a fair price mean? That the coffee grower can afford to send his kids to school, afford good decent healthcare, and buy a car? Or that his kids will not go to bed starving. I hope he gets at least the last.

Or does fair in this context mean that he is getting prices that are fairly similar to those quoted for coffee on the commodities exchanges without risking being taken to the cleaners by some savvy distributors? Who knows? I finish up my coffee with a lingering suspicion that perhaps a fair price might still not be enough.

Would it not be better to certify “unfair prices” or, in perhaps more marketing digestible terms “fair price plus 100%”? Whatever, at the end of the day, if I were a farmer, I know that I would much rather get European farm prices than fair prices.