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International Coffee Day 2019

by Adam Jenkins on September 30, 2019

Harvesting coffee

OCTOBER 1st IS INTERNATIONAL COFFEE DAY. So we’d like to take a moment to pay tribute to the independent farmers who put their blood sweat and tears into making your favorite drink possible.

Coffee has never been more popular and the cost of a cup shows no sign of going down. But despite spiraling price tags in the coffee house, the wholesale price is at its lowest in 15 years. In fact, a small grower can expect to see just one cent from the sale of a $3 cup. 

The International Coffee Organization (ICO) wants to change that. They don’t think it’s fair that growers are being forced to make a choice between poverty or abandoning their plantations just so they can feed their families. We don’t think it’s fair either.

Showing your support won’t cost a penny and could make a difference. Please sign the #coffeepledge here to support a living income for coffee farmers.

Coffee farmers have to be patient: your coffee beans start their life on a tree that’s taken at least four years to grow. During that time the grower has had to defend the tree from diseases like coffee rust which can wipe out entire plantations (like it did in Sri Lanka in 1869). 

Farmers also need to on the lookout for pests. The Coffee Berry Borer is a beetle that poses the greatest threat of any pest worldwide. It lays its eggs in coffee cherries which reduces the quality and quantity of the crop.

Farm workers sorting coffee

Generally speaking, the best coffee is grown at an altitude which brings its own challenges to tending and harvesting a farm. Working on steep slopes in mountainous areas is physically demanding and often hazardous.

Even if the farmer can cope with these challenges they still have the prospect that 60% of wild coffee species are facing the threat of extinction to contend with. A lethal cocktail of deforestation, human encroachment and climate change are threatening all coffee varieties, particularly the most sought after and profitable; Arabica.

Picking coffee is tough work that most people would prefer to avoid. So the people who end up doing it are often from the poorest economies. The best fruit is carefully selected and harvested twice a year. It’s dried in the sun for weeks, raked, turned by hand and covered in rain and at night. 

Washing coffee

The beans are hulled, polished, sorted, graded, bagged, loaded and shipped. Later it will be tasted, cupped and roasted. Roasting turns the green beans brown and unlocks their fragrant caffeol oil. This is the point at which you get to enjoy it. 

At every step of the chain, a layer of costs is added, with everyone doing their best to get paid. Being the party with the fewest options and the quietest voice doesn’t help the farmer. Which is how we come to find them being left with a cent on that $3 cup we mentioned earlier.

Signing the #coffeepledge will influence the international community, governments, development banks, the United Nations and the wider coffee industry to push fairer treatment and a living wage for coffee farmers worldwide.

Sign the #coffeepledge here

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