Be it with friends, family or in a quiet moment all to yourself, drinking coffee is one of the highlights of the day. But its future is far from certain.
In the last two years, the price of arabica coffee has dropped to below production costs, threatening the livelihood and wellbeing of millions of farmers, workers and their families in coffee-producing countries around the world.
As we mark International Coffee Day in 2018, take the plunge to learn more about the challenges facing the coffee industry, and find out how easily you can help make a difference.
THE PRICE CRASH
Coffee farming is hard work, but it's all worth it when you can sell your coffee for a decent price, right? Well, the price of arabica coffee has plummeted by 30 percent since the end of June 2016, leaving farmers facing a collective annual loss of more than $11 billion of income.
The total value of coffee was estimated to be around $200 billion dollars in 2015, but only 10 percent of that stays in the countries of origin, which means farmers and workers at the source aren’t being rewarded fairly for their efforts.
Despite their profits, large, multinational coffee companies collectively spend only 350 million dollars a year on sustainability. And by paying prices that are too low, the coffee industry is at least partly responsible for human rights issues such as poverty, child labour, poor working conditions and environmentally damaging practices.
THEN THERE’S CLIMATE CHANGE
The unsustainably low price of coffee doesn’t just mean less income for farmers who are already doing it tough, it also hinders the capacity of producers to resist the effects of climate change, which are increasingly being felt by growers around the world.
Changing rainfall patterns, the challenges posed by pests and disease and rising temperatures have all impacted on yields, reduced suitable areas for growing and negatively affected the quality of the coffee.
In fact, some climate change modeling suggests the area suitable for coffee production may fall by half before 2050, and by 2080 wild coffee could be extinct.
FIGHTING BACK WITH FAIRTRADE
Fairtrade recognises the need to reward the hard work of farmers with a fair price to cover the costs of production and enable investment. That’s why we provide the assurance of a minimum price and an additional Fairtrade Premium.
At least 25 percent of the Fairtrade Premium for coffee is reinvested in quality and productivity, safeguarding the long-term prosperity of farmers and ensuring high-quality coffee reaches roasters and supermarket shelves carrying the Fairtrade Mark.
And it isn’t just the quality that is improved when a fair price is received by producers. Fairtrade helps farmers to diversify their output, and adapt to the challenges posed by climate change.
Fairtrade also works to promote gender equality and facilitates investment in communities, as well education for boys and girls, strengthening farming families and increasing the long-term viability of the coffee industry as whole.
WHO ARE WE WORKING WITH?
Fairtrade works with 537 coffee-producing organisations representing 795,457 farmers in 30 countries. But these are not just numbers, they represent human beings.
So, let’s meet one of the people behind the statistics.
Guzman Nunez Torres is a married father of five children and a member of the Unicafec cooperative in San Ignacio, northern Peru.
Speaking to a Fairtrade ANZ representative during a visit to the region in August, the 50-year-old emphasised the transformational impact of working as part of a Fairtrade-certified cooperative.
“There’s a visible change in front of your eyes,” he said.
“Before, we used to work as if we were a ship in the sea with the engine turned off, adrift. You go wherever the sea or the wind takes you. We worked adrift because we didn’t have support or the organisation provided by Fairtrade.
“It has helped a lot. Because of the training, the processes but also because of the prices. Everybody knows this is the difference and we see it now more than ever, the importance of organising the cooperative and the benefits of Fairtrade.”
THAT ALL SOUNDS GREAT, BUT WHAT CAN I DO?
Whether you’re a roaster searching for single origin or a consumer just browsing the shelves at your local supermarket, buying Fairtrade means you’re investing in the future for coffee farmers, and coffee. That sounds too easy, I hear you say? Well, it is, and don’t you just love that?