Americans drink a lot of coffee every day. Estimates show nearly 83 percent of Americans drink at least one cup of coffee per day. This includes coffee-based drinks such as espressos, cappuccinos, and lattes. Each year, the percentage of Americans enjoying coffee increases.
With all that coffee flowing into the United States, hardly any attention to paid to where the coffee comes from. Sure, the package may say the beans came from Columbia or Ecuador or Chile, but that doesn’t let the end user know how the beans were grown and what the farmer was paid.
A growing number of companies are working with the Rain Forest Initiative to produce crops that are sustainable and ecologically friendly. These coffee fields are intended to produce quality beans without chemical pesticides or disrupting the surrounding rain forest ecosystems. Right now, the percentage of coffee that meets these standards is a scant 4.5 percent of all that produced. This number continues to grow as more customers look for environmentally friendly products.
Many customers are shocked to learn that even these ecologically sound brands are not always as concerned about the farmers. A pound of coffee sells for $9 to $10 in the United States. At the top end, the farmer only receives $2.84 for the labor involved. The remaining money is pure profit.
Farmers do not control the coffee beans, putting them at the mercy of coffee companies. These companies control the beans, the roasting facilities, the distribution channels, and often, the end market. Companies have found ways to increase their profits and control, squeezing the farmer out. In order to survive, the farmer must play by the rules of the coffee company.
If farmers were able to control the beans and the roasting, they could earn far more money. This would help stimulate the local economy by creating jobs and growth. The chain reaction could pull tens of thousands of people out of poverty. Agribusiness start-up and micro-loans have already started helping new coffee companies be born, often at a cost of $1 million. As more money becomes available to create new firms, the economic benefits can be spread around for all the people, not just a lucky few at the top of the ladder.