Frans van der Hoff
Frans van der Hoff (born 1939), or Francisco VanderHoff Boersma as he is called in Latin America, is a Dutch missionary who, in collaboration with Nico Roozen and ecumenical development agency Solidaridad, launched Max Havelaar, the first Fairtrade label in 1988. Frans van der Hoff's contacts with disadvantaged Mexican coffee producers were key in securing the supply and ensuring the success of the very first Fairtrade certification initiative.
Frans van der Hoff was born in 1939 in a disciplined farming family in Southern Netherlands. He became politically active early on in student movements during his studies at Radboud University Nijmegen. He later received a Ph.D. in political economy and another one in theology while studying in Germany. In 1970, van der Hoff moved to Santiago de Chile to work in the barrios as a worker-priest. During the 1973 coup, van der Hoff moved to Mexico to continue his work in the slums of Mexico City. Seven years later, he moved to Oaxaca in the Southern part of Mexico. As a worker-priest, he quickly integrated the community and started to learn about the misery and economic hardship of local coffee producers. In 1981, he participates in the launch of UCIRI (Union de Comunidades Indigenas de la Region del Istmo), a coffee producer cooperative created to bypass local traders (also called coyotes) and pool resources.
In 1985, van der Hoff met Nico Roozen at the Utrecht train station through a mutual friend. Roozen, who was then responsible for business development at ecumenical development agency Solidaridad, quickly became interested in van der Hoff's work. On November 15, 1988, the two launched together the first Fairtrade labelling initiative, Max Havelaar. The initiative offered disadvantaged coffee producers following various social and environmental standards a fair price, significantly above the market price, for their crop. The coffee, originating from the UCIRI cooperative, was imported by Dutch company Van Weely, roasted by Neuteboom and then sold directly to world shops and retailers across the Netherlands. The initiative was a great success and was replicated in several other markets.
In 2006, Fairtrade-certified sales amounted to approximately €1.6 billion worldwide and over 569 producer organizations, representing roughly over 1.5 million producers, in 58 developing countries were Fairtrade certified.
Van der Hoff was appointed Commander in the Order of the Crown (Belgium) by the Belgian Minister of Development Cooperation in 2006.
Van der Hoff received in 2006 an honorary doctorate from the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium for his efforts to establish a 'different economy'.
In 2006 he was awarded the Groeneveldprize from the Groeneveld Foundation in the Netherlands, for his special efforts for nature and the preservation of the environment.
He was named Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by French president Chirac in 2005.
- Jan van der Kaaij (2004). Building a sustainable, profitable business: Fair trade coffee. URL accessed on September 24, 2006.
- Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (2007). www.fairtrade.net. URL accessed on May 24, 2007.