Why Do Farmers Not Choose Fair Trade Cooperatives?: A Consideration Based on the Livelihood Strategy of Coffee Farmers in Lao PDR
By Arihiro Minoo
The purpose of this study is to examine why some farmers stop selling their coffee to cooperatives certified by Fairtrade International; it does so by taking up the case of the coffee-producing area of Lao People's Democratic Republic. Through this examination, this study attempts to address two interrelated aspects: one is the reaction of farmers when fair trade is adopted as part of a government-driven development program, and the other is the middlemen's function of alleviating the burden of indebtedness in the precarious transactional milieu by focusing on farmers' mistrust of outsiders. Through the examination of two separate sets of coffee transactions—those between middlemen and farmers, and those between cooperatives and farmers—this study concludes that some farmers choose to sell to middlemen for less economic reward because they basically mistrust buyers of different socioeconomic status. The implication of this study is that fair trade should offer not only the minimum price standard but also payment at the time of sale in order to alleviate mistrust.