I was wondering about Fair Trade foods/products (products carrying the international certificate) as I have never seen an actual policy or standards on how much farmers/producers get paid.

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Is there a standard cut or a policy that guarantees that farmers/producers of Fair Trade foods are actually being payed more? If so, is this increase in pay even worth it (ie. does it make a real difference to the original producers)?

  • 5
    "Worth it?" Worth what? Worth it to who? The producer? The buyer?
    – Shog9
    Apr 30, 2011 at 16:13
  • 1
    I am referring to whether the pay increase helps the original producers.
    – seadowg
    Apr 30, 2011 at 19:49
  • 1
    Oetzi: as a general advice - fix the question, don't answer in the comments :-)
    – Sklivvz
    Apr 30, 2011 at 23:43
  • 2
    An interesting question is whether it is better to buy Fairtrade or to buy normal products and donate the difference to charity
    – Casebash
    May 1, 2011 at 2:23
  • 3
    I am very skeptical of anything that's more "fair" than normal free market. There could be, such as occasional FTC interference. Even that causes more problem than it solves.
    – user4951
    Jul 22, 2012 at 15:15

2 Answers 2


I think this document should answer most of your questions.

In particular:

The FAIRTRADE Mark means farmers receive a fair and stable price for their products
A main objective of Fairtrade is to increase producer incomes. This is achieved by payment of a guaranteed, fair price and by reducing the number of intermediaries in the supply chain so that the growers get a larger share of the export price.
FLO audits each transaction to ensure the Fairtrade price and premium are paid to the producer organisation. A quick reference guide to Fairtrade producer prices and premiums is available on our web site.

Looking at the site, there's plenty of documentation on how much the individual producers are paid, see here:


  • 20
    that's their claims, no independent verification.
    – jwenting
    Jun 22, 2011 at 13:11
  • 6
    I'm gonna have to agree with @jwenting here. I have read many things about how fair trade products are only a marketing scheme, and don't produce much in terms of result (sere Suma's answer). I don't think this answers meets the criteria of sufficient proof.
    – Borror0
    Aug 12, 2011 at 15:13
  • 2
    Sometimes the UN and the OECD give different numbers for a number of statistics and they are too NGO's. There can be an independent verification of this. I strongly agree with @jwenting. I don't think this answer meets the criteria of sufficient proof either. Citing the direct source of doubt is like proving the bible with the bible.
    – Jose Luis
    Oct 7, 2011 at 13:47
  • 6
    @Sklivvz A company's ballance sheet has to be signed and verified by a registered/licensed accountant. An NGOs propaganda/information website isn't in any way so verified. Not saying the information is a lie, just that you've no way of verifying it and shouldn't use the NGOs own statements as proof that they're above the board.
    – jwenting
    Oct 8, 2011 at 12:43
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    @jwenting you are joking right? I am pointing you to official financial information by the NGO (who is legally responsible for it) and said NGO is backed up by very reputable insititutions (like OxFam). Now - if you think these are not reputable enough, please explain why.
    – Sklivvz
    Nov 4, 2012 at 21:29

Very little of the extra the end customer pays goes actually to the primary producer. While the fair trade goods cost usually substantially more than competitive products (often +50-100 %), the price difference paid to the primary producer is only marginally smaller.

Fair Prices for Farmers: Simple Idea, Complex Reality

"Farmers often receive very little," said Lawrence Solomon, managing director of the Energy Probe Research Foundation, a Canadian firm that analyzes trade and consumer issues. "Often fair trade is sold at a premium, but the entire premium goes to the middlemen."

Fair Trade labels don't list the amount paid to farmers; that sum requires research. The amount can vary depending on the commodity. An analysis using information from TransFair shows that cocoa farmers get 3 cents of the $3.49 spent on a 3.5-ounce chocolate bar labeled "organic fair trade" sold at Target. Farmers receive 24 cents for a one-pound bag of fair trade sugar sold at Whole Foods for $3.79.

The coffee farmer who produced the one-pound bag of coffee purchased by Mr. Terman received $1.26, higher than the commodity rate of $1.10. But whether Mr. Terman paid $10 or $6 for that fair trade coffee, the farmer gets the same $1.26

In some cases, the individual farmers may receive less than fair trade rules require because the money goes to cooperatives, which have their own directors who decide how much to pass on to farmers.

"We did a breakdown and saw that sometimes, what they're paying farmers is only 70 cents to 80 cents a pound" for coffee instead of the entire fair trade price of $1.26, said Christy Thorns, a buyer at Allegro Coffee, a roaster in Thornton, Colo., that is owned by Whole Foods. "There are so many layers involved."

Moreover, FairTrade also requires certification and annual fees, and they are quite substantial:

Flo-Cert Producer Certification System

  • Initial Basic Fee at least € 1.400.00
  • Annual Fee at least € 1,137.50

Note: this does not include "organics" certification. If the producer is to receive organics premium, it has to undergo another certification.

To be fair, the price difference may differ. When free market price drops down (like it was in years 2001-2005, see e.g. tables in this fair trade report), the fair trade price still stays at a decided minimum level, which at some periods meant the farmer received 100 % more (with free market coffee price $.60 the producer still gets $1.21). Still, this 100 % represents only minor part of the difference the end consumer pays.

  • 3
    This somewhat misses the point, While the amount of a Fairtrade product that goes to the producer is still a tiny fraction of the cost to the consumer, it is still much higher than the price they get from non Fairtrade sources. Jun 23, 2011 at 13:33
  • 5
    "fair trade goods cost usually substantially more than competitive products" I'd dispute this, Some fairtrade products cost more, many products (Cadburies chocolate for example) are becoming fair trade without costing more. Jun 23, 2011 at 13:39
  • 2
    If you know fair trade product which are not costing more, then the reasoning about why they cost more cannot be applied. What I think is a lesson to learn is that IF some Fair Trade product costs a lot more than a normal one, a consumer should not assume (as many people I know do) the difference goes mainly to the primary producer.
    – Suma
    Jun 23, 2011 at 17:54
  • 4
    "I would not tell $1.20 is much higher than $1.10" I'd say 9% is substantially higher. It may be only $0.10, but on $1.10 that's a big percentage.
    – jwenting
    Oct 8, 2011 at 12:53
  • 3
    @jwenting: Yea, but if you pay 3 $ more for the producer to receive 0.1 dollar more, where do the other 2.9$ go (263% of 1.1) ? It's a scam, and nothing else. And who's the "producer" ? The director of the producing co-op, or the slave workers in the fields ? And what has a higher price for the end-consumer to do with fair trade ? Fair trade is when you can export to country X to the same conditions as any other country; anything else may be social, but has nothing whatsovever to do with fair trade.
    – Quandary
    Aug 17, 2016 at 11:43

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