What’s wrong with cheap coffee, in a nutshell

by on December 3, 2011

The Fair Trade USA/FLO break-up and its ramifications is seeping into the mainstream media. Recently, for example, the New York Times published an article on the debate on the future of fair trade, and NPR carried a radio segment. A piece in Mother Jones magazine by Tom Philpott summed up the kerfluffle nicely, but what really resonated with me in that article was the paragraph on what sparked the genesis of the fair trade movement. It neatly summarizes (much of) exactly what is wrong with big, cheap, corporate coffee:

Huge, rich-world companies like Nestlé and Folger’s (now owned by JM Smucker) dominate trade and drive prices down, reaping windfalls. Production consolidates onto huge plantations that employ workers (often, children) at poverty wages; small producers get squeezed out. And as these high-production plantations expand their monocrops to meet global demand, they gobble up high-quality farmlands that might otherwise be supporting smallholders who grow food staples for domestic consumption along with foreign-exchange-earning crops like coffee.

…and destroy biodiversity in the process, I might add.  Read more about the practices and impacts of corporate coffee here.

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Revised on February 8, 2013

Posted in Corporate coffee,Fair and Direct Trade

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jon Danzig December 3, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Readers may also be interested that many years before Fairtrade existed, we imported almost 3 tonnes of instant coffee from Tanzania to the UK to help support manufacturing in the Third World. Last month BBC radio interviewed me about our ‘Campaign Coffee’, that helped to start the idea of ethically sourced coffee in Great Britain. The broadcast is now available on YouTube (4 minutes):

http://youtu.be/4qiHw40CubY

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