Fair Trade is an alternative trading system that aims to protect smallholder coffee farmers in the developing world from exploitation by powerful multinational buyers in the North. The system's guaranteed minimum price, premium for social investments, and strict set of regulations regarding the organizational structure of producer cooperatives have significant impacts on power relations in the coffee value chain.
This presentation will use methodological insights from Global Value Chain theory to assess how Fair Trade affects opportunities for producer empowerment, understood in its fullest sense as their advancement to the position of value chain governor. First, it will analyze the governance patterns of the Fair Trade value chain to identify how power is distributed, and whether it is exercised against producers as a form of exploitation. Second, it will consider how this system affects possibilities for producers to engage in functional upgrading through the creation of income-generating rents. The analysis will be undertaken from a gendered perspective that highlights how the effects of Fair Trading are distributed unevenly within the household.