Coffee

Coffee is one of the world’s most popular beverages.

Around 125 million people worldwide depend on coffee for their livelihoods. Coffee is the most valuable and widely traded tropical agricultural product and 25 million smallholder farmers produce 80% of the world’s coffee. But many of them fail to earn a reliable living from coffee.

Coffee is well known for being a boom and bust commodity. Global coffee production varies from year to year according to weather conditions, disease and other factors, resulting in a coffee market that is inherently unstable and characterised by wide fluctuations in price. This price volatility has significant consequences for those who depend on coffee for their livelihood, making it difficult for growers to predict their income for the coming season and budget for their household and farming needs.

The coffee supply chain is complex as beans pass hands through growers, traders, processors, exporters, roaster, retailers and finally the consumer. Most farmers have little idea of where their coffee goes or what price it ends up selling for. The more lucrative export of green coffee – beans that have been processed ready for export and roasting – is only an option for farmers if they can form co-operatives, purchase processing equipment and organise export or hire a contractor to carry out these services.

Fairtrade was set up in response to the dire struggles of Mexican coffee farmers following the collapse of world coffee prices in the late 1980s. With Fairtrade, certified coffee producer organisations are guaranteed to receive at least the Fairtrade Minimum Price for their coffee, which aims to cover their costs of production and act as a safety net when market prices fall below a sustainable level. Through their producer organisations, farmers also receive the additional Fairtrade Premium to invest in business or community improvements and must use at least 25 per cent of it to enhance productivity and quality, for example by investing in processing facilities. In 2011-12, certified coffee farmers earned an estimated £30 million in premiums that were invested in farmer services and community projects.

Ivan Vasquez, RAOS Cooperative, Honduras

The RAOS cooperative in Honduras has been Fairtrade Certified since 1997.

RAOS was the first cooperative in Honduras to export organic coffee from small and medium producers.

Profile: KIBINGE COFFEE FARMERS’ CO-OP, UGANDA

The coffee farmers of Kibinge in central Uganda are helping many of us get our day off to a good start.

Profile: OROMIA COFFEE FARMERS CO-OPERATIVE UNION, ETHIOPIA

Oromia Coffee Farmers Co-operative Union (OCFCU), the largest Fairtrade coffee producer in Ethiopia, was founded in 1999.

Profile: SOPPEXCCA, NICARAGUA

SOPPEXCCA was formed in 1997 by a group of 62 farmers to improve the lives of its members and their communities to build a sustainable organisation.

Profile: Coop agr dos prod org de neva resend e regiao, Brazil

Coop Agr dos Prod Org de Neva Resende e Regiao is a small farmer cooperative of 109 members. The mountainous landscapes and high altitude make the region ideal for coffee production.