What is the case for the Direct Trade model? – Part 2

Fairtrade is not the panacea it was meant to be. As more and more consumers and researchers realize this truth, we are left grasping for straws. “What do we do then, to ensure that our trade is ethical, benefits the manufacturers/ growers, more than the suppliers,” is a legitimate question to ask. 

As recent research by SOAS london has found, farmers who worked in farms and areas deemed  Fair Trade earned lower incomes as compared to those with non-Fair trade regions? So, what gives?

Similar criticism has come from within the sustainability circles, as this article argues that the Fair trade organizations engage with companies that don’t behave ethically. To quote “Fair Trade cannot guarantee that producer organizations will be able to sell all their Fair Trade Certified products under agreed conditions, which includes minimum pricing and premiums. Figures provided by FairTrade International for the period of 2013-2014 show that only 28% of Fair Trade coffee produced during this time frame was actually sold in Fair Trade Markets.” This means that Fair trade is turning out to be nothing more than a buzz word or a branding tactic.

While no system is perfect and scalability is a challenge with any model – whether it is Fair trade, organic foods or direct trade – Fair Trade has received particularly harsh critique from scholars and those in the industry for ignoring the fact that the ones it is supposed to benefit, don’t really receive those benefits. 

So, what is one to do? 

One possible solution is direct trade.  As this piece in the Guardian points out, over the past decade or so, coffee chains in the US like Intelligentsia and CounterCulture have started working directly with growers around the world, in a “direct trade” model, which can guarantee prices for farmers. This model can also help build stronger relationships. The certification (for Fair trade)  also goes out the window, thereby saving money. 

Is this something worth pursuing? We, at tlalipani certainly are. And it seems to be a good start, for us. 

Stay tuned to learn more about how we are using direct trade to bring you high quality products while paying a fair price to the makers of these products. 


  1. Not so Fair Trade – https://econ.st/3Gl5Vux
  2. Sustainabilite Living Assn – https://sustainablelivingassociation.org/the-real-problems-behind-fair-trade/
  3. The Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/direct-trading-coffee-farmers#:~:text=While%20fair%20trade%20promotes%20’protection,to%20grow%20a%20better%20crop.

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