Conscience in a cup – the coffee trade

Attach a face to your morning coffeeOne of the things I brought up on my CBC interview recently was just how volatile the coffee trade is. I am going to try and spend more time on this issue as it is a message that is not getting out enough.

Fact: Coffee changes hands 100-125 times on its journey from the farmers field to the cup –

That is an indicator of how many middle-men there are – this number is shrinking thanks, in part, to
internet auctions.

Now take all the coffee that is grown annually —
and multiply that quantity by ten and that is
the volume that trades on the commodity indexes
in New York and London. This is a totally staggering reality that impacts on the farmers and their families.

Back to the trade indexes for a moment: The coffee prices rise and fall faster than a theme-park roller-coaster.
And with these wild fluctuations, comes hardship for the
12 million farmers and families that rely on the meager
income that the coffee produces.

Is there hope? Yes: fair-trade, internet auctions, the cafe-culture phenomenon in the West that is paying more attention to the ethical issues and so on.

How can the average consumer help? Look at the label.
Is your coffee fairly traded? Is your coffee organic? Is your coffee labelled and branded by a gigantic trans-national like Folgers, Nescafe and the like. Read your label carefully.

Yes, you might be able to buy your 2-pound bins of ground Folgers at the Wal-Mart for $9 – but ask yourself this:
Who is really paying the ultimate price in human suffering when we screw farmers and their families out of a decent living?

Think about your coffee and how you can make a difference.