Black Gold - an alternative look - comments thread

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Black Gold - an alternative look - comments thread

Postby phil » Sun Jul 22, 2007 12:58 pm

We thought that folks might want to comment on and discuss the front page article "BLACK GOLD – AN ALTERNATIVE LOOK" from Steve Leighton. This thread has been provided to allow such discussions to be kept together.

Hope you all found it interesting?

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RE: Black Gold - an alternative look - comments thread

Postby Glenn » Sun Jul 22, 2007 1:08 pm

Great article Steve.

Thanks TMC team for enabling this feature - it's great to see this as front-page.

Very thought provoking, and ties in with many of the thoughts I have had after watching the movie and reading reviews from around the globe.

More of this please !
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Postby JonBoy » Sun Jul 22, 2007 3:42 pm

That was a really well written and thought out review Steve, so well done.

However, I wanted to make a couple of comments. Firstly, while Farir Trade isn't perfect, it is at least an opportunity for the general public who are buying instant coffee (and other goods) to know that in the vast majority of cases, thay are supporting a fairer system in relation to the payments made to small local producers.

Yes, it is still a low payment and in an ideal world we would be paying a fairer price to enable these farmers to educate their children and have basis sanitation and clean drinking water.

My second point is that rather than criticise Fair Trade we should be lobbying for it to become even fairer as it has a recognition in the market for improving conditions for farmers and producers.

I totally agree that the film starts off with a view and sets out to prove their case. Unfortunately an increasing amount of documentaries work on this premise and, as someone who used to work for the BBC, would like to see more of the type of journalism that still exists there (albeit not always!) which is independant and fair.

At the very least, this film has got people talking about the issues and that has to be a good thing. I believe that Steve, through his own commercial coffee interests, promotes fairness to coffeee producers and therefore I would have to compliment him in his attempts to improve the lot of the smaller producers and co-operatives.

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Postby Gadders » Sun Jul 22, 2007 7:26 pm

Fantastic read Steve, thanks very much! :D

'Fair' to say (:P), disregarding the actual fair trade flogging, the hype of the film is on the right track of making people more aware of the origins and reality of coffee production.
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Postby Steve » Sun Jul 22, 2007 8:30 pm

I think it did have a lot of positives, its just a shame they missed the point. It was a lazy attempt at addressing the problem.

Your quite right Jon and Gadders, I think some people do need fair trade and it is a start, but to say its the only way is not right, and not to acknowledge that it is just a start is short sighted. I guess I go over the top some times in trying to address that message, as I don't have the resources of the fair trade lobby do and its needs to be said.

It could have been so much more.
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Postby CakeBoy » Sun Jul 22, 2007 9:52 pm

I see your point totally Steve. Fair trade models are only fairer, not fairest, and sometimes they are downright unfair. For instance, if the point is helping the farmer, why tie him into a price should things go up? Yes, I know there are economic considerations, but it's meant to be about benefitting the farmer according to the fair trade 'message'.
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Postby scottwhite » Mon Jul 23, 2007 4:55 pm

The price to my knowledge has only gone over once, I used to think the whole thing was a farce.

But the thing is with the 'big four' and the others following shortly behind them, is they take so much volume that the buyers, as with anything you buy anywhere in the world, demand a lower price.

That is where the word fair comes into its own.

Also worth noting that even though prices went above the Fair trade rate on that occasion, there were others who had pre negotiated deals at lower than fair trade rates and they were still held to contract.

There are other aspects to fair trade that make it worth having, like helping to save local resources and education.

The bottom line is that these farmers are not forced into taking on fair trade deals, no one is holding a gun to their heads, reading that I felt it was more of a political article than a film review, I was suprised to see it on the front of the forum.
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Postby Steve » Tue Jul 24, 2007 9:54 am

Ok there’s a lot to cover here sorry its directed at you Scott but you’ve directed them at my article.

The price to my knowledge has only gone over once, I used to think the whole thing was a farce.



There have been numerous price spikes above the current FT price; they tend not to stay high for too long because such levels always attract vast new plantings. But for the farmer they watch the market like hawks and its no farce to them. Its happened certainly more than one occasion. I Think the important part here is its very volatile market.

http://www.ico.org/prices/p2.htm

Also worth noting that even though prices went above the Fair trade rate on that occasion, there were others who had pre negotiated deals at lower than fair trade rates and they were still held to contract.


And a whole lot more were not honored and not completed, a lot of farmers went back to negotiate price and many outstanding contract were not honored. It was a mini crisis for many fair trade improters. There were reports of coffee being stolen from ports waiting to be loaded, crops being shorter than expected (when in reality that wasn’t true) and the general loyalty to the contracts were tested.


But the thing is with the 'big four' and the others following shortly behind them, is they take so much volume that the buyers, as with anything you buy anywhere in the world, demand a lower price.


And that’s the problem when a price drops below what it’s economical for it to be grown. You can’t go lower than what it costs to grow, but often this is the case with the big roasters.

That is where the word fair comes into its own.



Not for me it doesn’t nothing fair about a big corporation taking advantage of a small producer, that’s just bullying. If a farmer has no other route to market because of their circumstances it’s a monopoly.


There are other aspects to fair trade that make it worth having, like helping to save local resources and education.



But is this the realm of the coffee market, I think that is the responsibility of the people when you begin to pay them a good price for coffee. This is not about taking over its should be about helping people to help themselves



The bottom line is that these farmers are not forced into taking on fair trade deals, no one is holding a gun to their heads, reading that I felt it was more of a political article than a film review, I was suprised to see it on the front of the forum.



I guess this is the part that worry’s me the most Scott, farmers are forced into these agreements because they see no other way to make a living. They can not find a route to market they have to sell somewhere. To say its fantastic and by buying it you change the world is not true, you give them a basic standard of living.

As I’m very keen to stress I think there is a need for fair trade and that the idea as a whole is a good one, but it is not he only answer. This was meant to be a counter balance to this point of view.

As for a political article, I certainly don’t think so. Yes this is something I feel very passionate about, but I said something was black you would say its blue of late anyway Scott. I think we know we disagree with each other on this matter and that’s fine I respect your point of view, but I have mine too, and it would be nice to have the same back.

It’s on the front page as Team TMC thought it would provoke some interesting debate, and so far it has. I’m curious to think why you think it should be there?

Sorry for the long reply and this is in no way personal, just something I feel very passionate about.

Cheers

Steve

PS Still love you Scott :)
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Postby scottwhite » Tue Jul 24, 2007 12:21 pm

How can you say that is no way personal when you say in the previous paragraph :

"but I said something was black you would say its blue of late anyway Scott."

As for respecting your opinion I do not understand what you mean by 'getting the same back', you have made your point as I have made mine, so what is the difference?

How is it that by not agreeing with you I am not respecting your view, yet when you disagree with me it is the reverse?

It says on the front page 'discuss this article' that's what I have done, I think you have taken this very personally and really if you put up an article or film review which expresses strong opinions then you should be able to discuss those points without taking offence, otherwise it is not by definition a democratic discussion at all and that defeats the object.

I think really to get any further into the debate about all this it would need someone from the fair trade organisations to comment on it all as I only work from hearsay and am not directly linked in with the organisations on a day to day basis, I am therefore out of my depth, not qualified to do so and offer no further comment.
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Postby Steve » Tue Jul 24, 2007 12:45 pm

Scott everything I've posted of late you disagree, not personal just an observation pointed out to me by others too, I have no problem with that, your questioning my point of view and me yours. We are after similar goal but approaching it from different sides and thats why debate with you is such fun. Acknowledging a point of view and respecting it are different, I do have experience in coffee pricing (as limited as it is) and how the markets work I've given a huge part of my life up to make people understand that we can pay a good price for coffee.

I respect your point of view as a commercial seller, we have a different market sector, and I do understand where you come from. But what I'm trying to say is fairtrade is the minimum we should be doing, that should be the ground we build up from not aim for.

Its not personal at all Scott your confusing that for my passion for the subject and my eagerness to offer an alternative view. If I took everything personal from this forums and other places I'd be very bruised man :)

Your right you stick your neck out your likely to get it hit, and thats a lot of the point of the article. The democracy of it we are discussing it in an open way, so I don't get your point there, but at least we are discussing it.

But I do still love you Scott :)

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Postby CakeBoy » Tue Jul 24, 2007 2:55 pm

The good thing about debates like this is that the various points of view can be aired and discussed to everyone's advantage. We all share and learn. It's pretty well documented that Steve and Scott don't agree on this subject, and that even though they are very much both in favour of the same things in respect of price and fair play to the farmers, they don't always agree as to how best to achieve those goals. The style in which those differences are sometimes debated is fairly unique, however, they always produce an excellent discussion in good spirit and I love them both :wink: :D
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Postby Sunnyfield » Wed Jul 25, 2007 6:34 am

I am drifting away from the review a little bit now. What is the impact of fair trade on the quality of the fair trade crop? My concern is that the farmers sell the lesser crop for the pre-agreed price to the fair trade organisations and the top quality crop at a premium rate to the highest bidder.
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Postby Steve » Wed Jul 25, 2007 6:46 am

I think thats an interesting Point Sunny, Good farmers tend to know that they can not sell there whole crop to one seller, this seems to happen particularly on the large farms/ coops of say Brazil for instance. The good quality stuff goes to the quality buyers looking for something special, the OK coffee finds its way to the next tier and some coffee just goes to the commercial santos market (in the Brazil case).

But the fairtrade farmers are less inclined to do this and mix the whole of the coops coffee and hope there is enough good quality to raise it above the poor quality in the mix. This is a lot to do with its being a COOP only controlled brand.

Do you know there are some really special and wonderful Fair Trade coffees on the market, but thats all to do with luck and never anything to do with design, and I wonder if they were allowed to have single estate fair trade coffee how good that might be. But the brand doesn't allow single estate farmers or smaller coops to get the fair trade registration.
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Postby BazBean » Wed Jul 25, 2007 7:40 am

if there are differing grades of fairtrades is this picked up or does it just all go into one great big melting pot to be burnt to a cinder and labeled under an generic name?... seems a shame when a commodity that could in theory command a higher cost is blended!, imadgine mixing a 25 year old malt in with a supermarket brand whisky ........

do or would, end users pay higher costs for speciality Fairtrades do you think? or does this then upset the branding/ marketing machine of the organisation.....?

no easy answers ... if there were everyone would be happy including every producer out there.
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Postby Steve » Wed Jul 25, 2007 9:20 am

BazBean wrote:if there are differing grades of fairtrades is this picked up or does it just all go into one great big melting pot to be burnt to a cinder and labeled under an generic name?... seems a shame when a commodity that could in theory command a higher cost is blended!, imadgine mixing a 25 year old malt in with a supermarket brand whisky ........

do or would, end users pay higher costs for speciality Fairtrades do you think? or does this then upset the branding/ marketing machine of the organisation.....?

no easy answers ... if there were everyone would be happy including every producer out there.


It tends to go into one melting pot apart from the really poor quality (altohugh this does vary from country to country).

I think the end user would pay more Barry as they do for quality, but its a niche small sector of the market that will pay the prices. The problem occurs when you take away the good quality the poor quality gets worse.
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