What is Direct Trade?

CCC_DTCseal_CCCThis week, we’ll be taking a look at the idea behind direct trade. A few weeks prior, we discussed the practice of fair trade: it’s an agreement that allows producers in developing countries to sell their products at a fair price, helps to keep their products sustainable, and makes sure their workers are being treated fairly. Fair trade acts as a sort of partnership which aims to make sure that no one is being taken advantage of.

Some consumers take issue with fair trade for a multitude of reasons, the most prevalent of which involves a lack of substantial evidence proving that fair trade practices positively impact the very countries which it claims to benefit, and that much of the money does not even go to the farmers who produce these goods (or their economy). Some critics claim that while fair trade is a good idea in theory, in practice, fair trade has “…evolved from an economic and social justice movement to largely a marketing model for ethical consumerism.”

Regardless of your opinion on fair trade, direct trade is worth taking a look at. It’s seen by many as an alternative, better, and more personalized version of fair trade. One of the biggest names in direct trade certification belongs to the co-owner of Counter Culture Coffee, Peter Giuliano, who self-identifies as a student of coffee (despite being in the industry for decades). He is also the director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

Direct_trade_1

Counter Culture Coffee boasts its own direct trade certification. According to their site,


“Counter Culture Direct Trade Certification is based on the principles guiding our coffee purchases and our relationships with coffee growers and grower groups. We engage an external auditor on an annual basis to verify Counter Culture’s compliance with four quantifiable measures, and coffees that meet the following standards qualify for Direct Trade Certification:

  1. Personal & direct communication: Counter Culture has visited all growers of certified coffees on a biennial basis, at minimum.
  2. Fair & sustainable prices paid to farmers: Counter Culture has paid at least $1.60/lb F.O.B. for green coffee.
  3. Exceptional cup quality: Coffees have scored at least 85 on a 100-pt. cup quality scale.
  4. Supply chain transparency: Counter Culture maintains direct communication between buyers, sellers, and any intermediaries (like importers). All relevant financial information is available to all parties, always.”

If you’ve read our fair trade post, you’ll probably recognize many of those practices. The difference is that with direct trade, a lasting relationship is built with the growers. Additionally, rather than meeting an extensive list of requirements (many of which may not apply to some growers, and may completely exclude those who are poor), requirements are personalized. In this way, direct trade is built to directly benefit the growers.

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