We wrote recently about the environmental factors in India that may reduce that country’s crop harvest this season, and it’s looking like the current economic influences are making it hard for Brazilian farmers to get the loans required to fertilize and harvest their entire plantations.
What does this mean for us? Well, annual consumption of coffee beans per year is around 130 million pounds, but production is now estimated at around 122 million pounds of beans for the next harvest season, leaving us with a possible 8 million pound shortfall.
On a visit to the coffee-growing hills above San Lucas, Rice cultivated what would later become the American fair trade movement. Founded in 1998 in a converted warehouse in downtown Oakland, TransFair USA began as a bare-bones operation with an unusual premise – put more money in the pockets of farmers in the developing world by persuading consumers thousands of miles away to pay a premium in the name of social justice. Modeled after organic produce and dolphin-safe tuna, Rice started the organization with the stark black and white label that told shoppers their coffee came from farmers who received a “fair price.”
The San Francisco Chronicle just wrote this very interesting profile of the man who founded the Fair Trade movement for coffee, Paul Rice. We highly recommend the read!
“…all for the price of a cup of coffee.” The Christian Children’s Fund might have to change their pitch-line in the coming months, as India reports their Robusta coffee crops are down due to the excessive rain they’ve been experiencing — a drop which may result in an increase in coffee prices around the world.
India’s highest producing region, Karnataka, experienced intense rains during coffee’s blossom season, which will likely impact the amount of beans they are able to harvest. While this news story focuses on the fact that Robusta is primarily used in instant coffees, it is also very often used in high-end gourmet brands (such as Lavazza or Illy) in their espresso blends to create a thicker crema and a bolder body. Robusta is bitter due to it’s higher caffeine content, so it’s not used in high quantities, but the increase in prices could have an impact on the cost of your favorite coffee beans — whether or not you’ll see this passed on to you remains to be seen.
However, coffee’s global commodities pricing has dropped significantly over the past several months, due to the economic issues seen in Europe and the US, so perhaps these environmental and economic issues will balance each other out.
Have you ever thought about taking a volunteer vacation? You know the kind, where you give a little while you get a little? Earthwatch has some of the most amazing working vacations available, all concentrated on working with scientists and researchers to measure, examine, explore and understand nature and our place within it.
If you’re a coffee connoisseur, planning a trip to learn about how you can help in the development of sustainable coffee agriculture could bring more meaning — and adventure! — to your daily mug. Earthwatch offers a 15-day expedition in Costa Rica where you assist in field experiments to improve the ecological sustainability of shade-grown coffee. The research station is located in one of our favorite spots on earth — the breathtaking Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve — and involves hiking to different coffee plantations and collecting data for the experiment. They currently have stints planned for the first half of this December, or a few next year in March, July and November.
Please let us know if you choose to go — we’d love to hear all about your experience!
Agricultural sustainability is a global challenge — from biodiversity to non-toxic farming practices, there are significant issues that we face in regard to ensuring our food supply is healthy, scalable and, most importantly, fair to everyone involved.
To that end, Lavazza launched the Tierra! Project in 2004, which supports sustainable economic, social and agricultural development in three coffee growing communities located in Honduras, Peru and Colombia. The Tierra! beans are 100% Arabica, completely traceable and you’ll know your money goes toward supporting an overall increase in the standard of living in these communities.
While coffee is regaled the world over and is the 2nd highest traded commodity, the farmers that grow these delicious beans receive very little of the economic boon you’d expect given the place their product has in the market. Supporting fair trade and economically sustainable coffee outfits is one step that you can take to help change this global dynamic. Sure, it’s small — but will likely make more of an impact than you can imagine.