With coffee prices reaching new highs, suddenly the premiums that organic and Fair Trade coffee beans used to command are dwindling in comparison to the additional overhead required of growers. Or so suggests an article today from Reuters: Reuters AlertNet – FEATURE-Farmers question value of ‘responsible’ coffees.

The article points out that coffee farmers that follow these ‘responsible’, sustainable practices are promised more of a consistent, living wage — rather than a guarantee of profit sharing in an up market for coffee commodities trading.

But to make matters worse and more confusing in the area of Fair Trade, today London’s The Financial Times published a couple of articles that questioned the worker wages and authenticity behind some coffees that carry the Fair Trade seal of approval:

  • Euro2day :: ‘Ethical’ coffee workers paid below legal minimum
  • Euro2day :: The bitter cost of ‘fair trade’ coffee

Things have gotten so questionable, in fact, that Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago — one of the premier, high-quality, smaller-batch roasters in North America — recently stopped working with Fairtrade for their certified coffees.

UPDATE: Sept. 18, 2006
The Los Angeles Times also picked up on this issue in an article today: Fairtrade Coffee Not Living Up to Label in Peru – Los Angeles Times. It also notes the Financial Times discovery that some Fair Trade coffees are being illegally planted in protected rainforests.