Faceless Farmers: Remember Fair Trade? Me Neither…

Graphic of a faceless farmer holding a pitchfork.

The last time I was scouring the pristine aisles of an otherwise cramped grocery store, I neglected to think about the origins of the food I was buying. Who put the time and effort into growing the fruit, I carelessly tossed in my fridge? How much do they really get paid and is it enough to sustain an entire family? Just how painstakingly arduous is it to cultivate sugarcanes? Sugar, though lacking in beneficial nutrients, never fails to make its way into my morning coffee and tea. Never mind my reckless consumption of all things deliciously sweet, the real issue at hand is that Fair Trade is still something I don’t pay much attention to.

A friend who is an active humanitarian once told me that by drinking non-fair-trade coffee, I may as well be consuming the tears of a coffee bean farmer. Needless to say, she made a fair point.

A feature, published in the Japan Times that profiled well known Japanese food blogger, Yu Nakamura, details her journey to Thailand where her encounter with a struggling coconut sugar farmer, led to her establish Coconuts Nakamura; an enterprise whereby coconut sugar would be exported to Japan and Europe. Two countries where the demand for such produce is considerably high.

The main objective of Nakamura’s business is to help farmers achieve higher profit margins as the sugar initially sold for a very low market value; definitely not worth the immense blood sweat, and tears needed to extract the sugar in the first place. With coconut sugar having a low glycemic index, it has become a favorable alternative to the original kind.

While ensuring that farmers are being rewarded, the exports would keep the next generations deeply rooted in agriculture. Nakamura’s story is a perfect example of how one can actively get involved to maintain equilibrium to the pay scale of a manual laborer, not to mention one heck of a motivator.