How You Set In Motion Coffee’s Global Business

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If you are like me- someone who has drunk much more than one coffee in your life, you might be interested in pondering this question: Why do you think the multi-billion-dollar global coffee industry can be a losing business for the growers, whose hands till the land from where coffee starts?

In fact, if you drink 2 cups of coffee a day for one year, you’ll be spending more than the annual income of the coffee farmer in a developing country. To help present to fellow North American coffee drinkers this huge disparity between the farmer and the other key players across the coffee value chain, take a look at the infographic below.

Considering that North America is the biggest coffee consumer in the world, we can make a big dent by supporting the fair trade advocacy that ensures farmers get paid properly. Take a look at the infographic again. It describes how coffee is made from the farm to the mill, to the roasting plant and all the way to the consumer. Here are some of its highlights that show the bigness of this industry:

– 100 M people depend on coffee for livelihood; 25 M of which are farmers

– The U.S. spent 18 B for coffee yearly, equivalent to Bosnia’s GDP

– Coffee is the second most globally traded commodity after petroleum

For the Silo, Alex Hillsberg Web Journalist


Here's How You Make Coffee A Billion Dollar Business
*originally published in Silo print edn. April 2013

Supplemental- How North Americans can help the #fairtrade program

3 Comments to How You Set In Motion Coffee’s Global Business

  1. Chris Burke

    Many of us are small roasters who are struggling on our end as well. For a small roaster in Montana, the prospect of visiting Nepal, although very intriguing is virtually impossible. I have lived and worked at origin in Hawaii. We encouraged visits to the farm and production facility as well, but we also understood that the broker can fill a vital role for small roasters to gain access to great coffees. The myth that every coffee roaster has the resources to visit all the origins they purchase from is just that, a myth. Only a few specific companies have this ability. Chris Burke @MGCTwest

  2. Chris Burke

    I think it would be good to avoid generalizations. In my twenty years as a roaster and then green coffee salesman and roaster again, I can say with confidence that “fairtrade” schemes of the last ten to fifteen years have improved quality of coffees from a variety of farms, coops and origins. Having graded coffee for a living, I have to say the term “shit” is relative and there is a lot of marketing of marginal tasting coffees as high quality, regardless of certification or not. I am glad that I have trusted and invested (with my purchases) in production improvements that have improved some of the coffees I have purchased. From season to season, lot to lot and cup to cup coffee is a living product that will be what it is at the moment. There are plenty of farms and coops and roasters for that matter that are producing great product and disappearing because of a lack of investment and loyalty not because they produce “shit”. Chris Burke @MGCTwest

  3. Fair prices for crap coffee is likely not going to happen. Farms that produce a quality product, and I am talking a GR1 or 2 (SCAA scale) are already getting fair or above fair prices for their coffee and usually deal with reputable brokers and/or reputable roasters only, with relationships that go back many, many years. Their coffee is sought after and they are very picky as to whom gets it. The farms that are usually getting squashed are not usually small farms, however these farms are not producing a quality coffee anyway.

    Any other farm out there that is selling at below fair price per lb is either selling a commodity or exchange grade coffee not worth very much, and selling it to *$ and other large companies and roasters not interested in a quality product, hence the price and final product taste. A lot is also Robusta, not a good grade to begin with.

    Have you ever had good coffee from *$? Why would they pay a high price for shit green coffee? They are some of the ones screwing farmers out of already bad coffee. They just bought a coffee farm to increase their bottom line, and make shareholders happy. The whole Fair Trade saga is a lot of smoke and mirrors benefiting the big companies like *$, making them look good in the eyes of the consumer but the $ is not filtering down line as it should.

    I know roasters that were fair trade before there was any such title. When I started in this biz 10 yrs ago my first roaster was a pioneer in buying direct at a fair price. My broker I use now buys at above fair price direct from the farms and coops, and collectors and mills at origin to guarantee he gets the lot so his customers can sell the world’s best coffee. Of course it is the world’s best coffee.

    Not all coffee is created equal and worth what is paid for it. Tony DiCorpo

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