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115. “The new coffee crisis”

Last week I reflected on the implications of current market prices: the good, the bad and the ugly.  (Yesterday my morning paper reported that the NY “C” closed above $2.25 and that farmers here in Guatemala are closing contracts in the $2.50 range.)  This week, more comment on the current state of the market, starting with one Fair Trade roaster’s take on what it is calling “The New Coffee Crisis.”

  • “The New Coffee Crisis”
    Just Coffee, a cooperative roaster out of Madison, Wisconsin, published last week its reflections on The Future of Coffee.  The (characteristically thoughtful) post included this central observation: Fair Trade surged in popularity after “The Coffee Crisis,” in which wholesale prices fell to historic lows; Fair Trade is struggling to remain relevant during “The New Coffee Crisis,” characterized by prices that are at historic highs.  Some fundamental reordering of the Fair Trade coffee cosmos is in order, according to Just Coffee, and what we see on the other side may be very different from what we have now.
  • IISD: Sustainability and Transparency report
    Last week the blog Coffee & Conservation offered some analysis of a report published last month by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, based in Canada.  The State of Sustainability Initiatives Review 2010: Sustainability and Transparency is a serious undertaking.  It looks at what IISD calls “voluntary sustainability initiatives” — certifications and both corporate and sector-wide codes of conduct — across five industries with significant participation in such initiatives, including forest products, cocoa, tea, bananas and, of course, coffee.  I have only just printed the full document and hope to read it in its entirety over the holidays.  Meantime, Julie at Coffee & Consevation has published two posts on the report: an overview in which she provides some good analysis, and a company-by-company breakdown of who buys how much “sustainable coffee” in which she names names.  More next week what certifications are really worth when market prices are high.
  • Child labor in the coffeelands
    Santa isn’t the only one making lists this time of year.  The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor and Human Trafficking released last week its annual “List of Goods Produced with Child Labor or Forced Labor,” citing 13 countries for child labor in the coffeelands.  The list included eight countries in the Americas (Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama) and five in Africa (Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda).  In one — Ivory Coast — the Department of Labor also found evidence of forced labor on coffee farms.  The report is published annually in compliance with the terms of the 2005 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.  In last year’s report, the first, 12 countries appeared.  El Salvador was the new addition for 2010.  While the report is short on analysis of the dynamics of child labor, it is clear that we are not talking about the coffeeland equivalent of kids in the suburban United States setting up lemonade stands in August.  Child labor is characterized for this report as any work for kids under 15 or work for kids under 18 that includes likely harm to the child, from physical injury to sustained school absence.


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