Would you like some blood with your coffee?
By Anonymous

January 28, 2008
Coffee.
This aromatic substance possesses a certain degree of control over all who cross its path, and contrary to popular belief, coffee does not fall from the sky already brewed to perfection.

In 2006 the amount generated by annual coffee sales was valued at $60 billion dollars, making the market for coffee the most important trading commodity in the world after oil. However, while the industry for coffee was blooming, the workers behind the scenes were not being paid their works worth.

Surviving at under a dollar per day, coffee farmers are living in dire poverty and are forced to bear the pitiless conditions of the trading business. Many have been forced to abandon their farms, solely because the corporations that own the industry do not provide them with their deserved income.

Of the 2 billion cups of coffee that are consumed daily, a farmer earns only 1-3% of the revenue generated, a measly 3¢ for a $3.00 cup of coffee.

The justification for this unequal distribution of revenue – ‘Trade is more important to us than aid.’

The market for coffee is ruled by four multinational corporations, Kraft, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble and Sara Lee, which are most commonly referred to as ‘The Big Four.’

‘These companies [in the coffee business] have more revenue than a lot of African nations. They make billions from coffee, while the very people who prop up their billion-dollar empires are struggling to survive,' says Marc Francis, director of the 2006 documentary about the international coffee trade entitled Black Gold. ‘How is it that there can be famine in these African nations and yet there are booming coffee trades on their doorsteps?’

However the exploitation of resources is not limited to the coffee industry alone but includes many others, namely bananas, cocoa, coal and honey.

These practices of resource extortion can no longer be justified in the market today. Consumers want to be able to detach themselves from such industries and yet, they cannot blame anyone but themselves for nurturing the situation at hand.

‘In the end, there is no such thing as an ethical cup of coffee,’ says Bryant Simon, a professor of history at Temple University, ‘because the commodity brand economy has never been ethical. If you want economic justice, you've got to do a lot more than pay $3 for a cup.’

Naturally merciless theft will lead to bitter poverty, but before you start pointing fingers at the supposedly ‘bad guys’ in the story, look no further for someone to blame because it is the consumers who drive the market. They hold the industry in their hands and can coerce one way… or another.

In the words of Francis, “Wake up people and smell the coffee.”


Bibliography

"British film-makers ask: what is the hidden cost of your £2 latte?." 27 May 2007. 28 Jan 2008 .

Black Gold. 28 Jan 2008. Feb 2008 .


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