When it comes to coffee, free trade does not necessarily equal fair trade.
Wednesday night, the Yale College Council unanimously passed a resolution recommending that Yale Dining Services replace all non-flavored coffee with “fair trade” coffee. YCC member and resolution author Matthew Nickson ’03 said he has been talking to many members of the administration about replacing the current coffee offered in dining halls with the fair trade coffee. Nickson is a former Yale Daily News editorials editor.
For coffee to be “Fair Trade Certified” by the Fairtrade Labeling Organization, coffee farmers must be assured a base price of $1.26 per pound of washed arabica, regardless of fluctuations in the New York “C,” or coffee, market. In its resolution, the YCC cited an MSNBC report that showed Nicaraguan farmers receive $0.20 per pound on the local market.
Yale’s regular coffee is a blend of washed arabica, and the decaffeinated coffee is a blend of 100% Columbian arabica.
“Right now there’s a tremendous glut of coffee in the world’s market,” Nickson said.
While Nickson said he would prefer if the YDS paid for the coffee change out of their budget, he added that he personally would not mind a small hike in meal plan payments to show support for fair trade. The YCC resolution, however, called for no increase in the dining plan payment.
“We’re only talking a four dollar increase per student, if that,” Nickson said.
Yale currently purchases its coffee from Northeast Coffee Roasters, which also sells fair trade coffee. YDS pays a surcharge on every pound of coffee Yale purchases rather than paying for coffee-brewing equipment.
“There’d be about a $2 up-charge per pound,” Nickson said.
Nickson said Associate Director of Dining Services Charles Bennett told him Yalies drink about 9,000 pounds of coffee a year, including flavored coffee, though exact figures are confidential.
Nickson said that since no fair trade flavored coffees currently exist, the same standards would not be required until such coffees come into existence.
“The reason I don’t want to replace [flavored coffee] is because I have nothing to replace it with,” Nickson said. “The YCC can make a difference by showing University Dining Services and the administration… [that there are] moral implications for fair trade coffee that argue strongly for its implementation.”