Why cheap coffee is a big problem.

The price of coffee on the Coffee Exchange is in free fall. People probably think: “Yay, good for us!” But, in fact, the opposite is true. The price drop has some adverse effects which for example have a negative influence on the quality of our coffee.

A lot of coffee farmers spend more on the farming (growing, picking, processing) of their coffee than what they get when selling it. Farmers can’t keep up with that for very long. When this situation persists, they will start to explore other options. They might choose to switch up their Arabica-plants with Robusta. These plants have a better yield, but mostly deliver a berry of lesser quality. This will have an impact on the coffee market. Do we still want to experience high quality coffee or will that get too expensive for most? We will explain the differences between Arabica and Robusta in a further post by the way. Or maybe we will stop with the farming of coffee all together, in favour of other crops? Or maybe, and this is also a bad option, we go for efficiency gains by automatic picking, where ripe berries as well as unripe ones are picked. This will also affect the quality of the coffee (negatively).

"A lot of coffee farmers spend more on the farming (growing, picking, processing) of their coffee than what they get when selling it."

What is very worrying: farmers that don’t make a profit cannot invest in better machinery or the improvement of their processing and also do not have enough money to pay their workers a fair wage. Which is absurd when you know coffee is the second most traded product in the world (behind oil and its derivatives). Specialty coffee, for which the farmer receives a fair price, not depended on the Coffee Exchange-price, only takes 1% of that pie. Our producers are therefore very vulnerable. That’s why we support them through various initiatives to make sure that these farmers receive a correct fee for their product. We also support them through helping them install coöperatives which ensure better working conditions, security and representation. Farmers receive schooling on how to take care of the soil and good water management. Women farmers are united in special programs because they are even more vulnerable. This way their schooling and representation in the coffee world is on the rise and they have better access to healthcare and other organisations.

Cheap coffee might be fun in the short term, but is disastrous for the farmers and in the long run those prices will prove a big threat to quality coffee. We, for one, aren’t willing to let that happen!

Addition januari 2021: This month the new Coffee Barometer came out. And the situation regarding the pricing of coffee hasn’t improved. On the contrary, covid19 made things even worse. We ask the big coffee corporations to follow our suit and pay a decent fee for their beans. Then, and only then, when they get involved, we can change the working and living conditions of coffee farmers from around the world, we can help to keep climate change at bay and keep quality coffee alive. It’s our duty as coffee makers. Rise up to the challenge!

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