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If coffee quality is the target there are economic considerations that are unavoidable. Simply put, to create better coffees means spending more on their production at just about every step. It makes no sense to improve coffee quality if there is no improved return, and given the relatively slim historical margins few farmers or millers would take the risk of increasing their costs without knowing that there were reliable premiums awaiting them once the harvest was ready. For this reason we have to be prepared to pay more for such coffees, and to do so consistently. Hence the 25% above FT, which is really just a reference point. In practice the premiums we pay usually range from fifty to two-hundred percent above the FT minimum. Fair Trade is the most recognizable standard in the industry today, and it serves as a very useful reference when explaining our purchasing standards to the public--that’s why we include FT standards as a comparison when talking about Direct Trade. (continued in next post...)
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