Black Gold - an alternative look - comments thread

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Postby lukas » Thu Jul 26, 2007 10:24 pm

I certainly agree with that Steve!

It would be quite simple to buy coffee from retailers if they just tell you how much the farmer's got per lb.

Oh, and let's not forget the workers/helpers on the farm.

Edit: that would indeed require that retailers/roaster actually know how much their coffe is worth ... ah, dreaming of a better world!

This week I like my coffee luke-warm.
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Postby Steve » Thu Jul 26, 2007 10:33 pm

lukas wrote:It would be quite simple to buy coffee from retailers if they just tell you how much the farmer's got per lb.

An interesting Idea but I cant tell you how difficult a thing this is to get unless you are truly buying farm direct (which is out of the realm of people like me I'm afraid at the moment.

And for the consumer it wouldn't mean anything $1.26 a lb FOB whats that then.

I dream of a day where we don't have to worry about how much the farmer got just how good the coffee is.
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Postby bruceb » Fri Jul 27, 2007 10:35 am

Steve wrote:I dream of a day where we don't have to worry about how much the farmer got just how good the coffee is.

I believe the majority of consumers don't worry about how much the farmer got, just how little they have to pay.:(

At the same time I'm still interested in hearing if anyone can recommend a particularly good FT coffee, with source.
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Postby Richie » Mon Sep 17, 2007 10:51 am

Hey - As today's newest member to Toomuchcoffee I just wanted to add a quick point to the Fairtrade thread - a bit late I know but wanted to clear up one thing...

The $1.26 Fairtrade price quoted is the Minimum Price a buyer must pay for Fairtrade coffee and NOT a ceiling price. If and when the market price is higher producers will get the higher price. Fairtrade therefore helps producers gain market access at a price that cover costs of production as a minimum. If they can get a higher price due to good old supply and demand economics they are free (and encouraged) to do so!! :P
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Postby Steve » Mon Sep 17, 2007 10:57 am

Quite right Richie. In fact that price has just been raised to $1.31 and a 10 cent premium of organics. But the market often pays the minimum, and its not as transparent as it should be.
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Postby Napolicaffe » Sun Nov 11, 2007 12:54 pm

The media is incredibly powerful and is in a unique position to inform/alter peoples opinions of a subject. It is very easy to put a bias on a film through the writers script and editing. How easy is it to omit critical sides of a debate and later justify this with a 'one liner'?
Its very easy to bash high profile companies like Macdonalds and Starbucks without looking to the broader market. We have to remember that companies like this are very popular and they have many millions of customers.
I have seen biased media productions which resulted in companies loosing millions in value from the stock market while the film makers pat themselves on the back at causing rumbles in the industry.
Another case for tighter regulation.
We all want to the producers of a good product, whatever that may be,to be handsomely rewarded for their contribution. Its very easy to call all the buyers 'bad guys due to econimic conditions - over supply forcing prices down. If the public become more educated via the passionate individual and coffee shops that will in turn help people to become more selective. This in turn increases demand for the premium produced coffee bean and the farmer is better rewarded.
The reality is the larger companies who offer lower grade coffee, buy any old rubbish, twigs, leaves etc (to paraphrase) which does not command a premium price. This is where the suffering starts for the farmer because he is not producing anything special and there fore can be squeezed by the buyer paying higher prices initially, encouraging increased production and even offering loans against the farms for new processing equipment.Then in the following year dropping the offered price.
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Postby Belgik » Wed Jan 09, 2008 1:24 pm

I only today, after ...two... years, read that article. Mind you, I've been slipping, ever so slowly, into the ...quality... coffee world and, at first, what appeared simple is now, complex, much

In the wine scene, you have had the European commission meeting for years and then...whomp...they're going to "help" the ailing French, Italian, German wine ...producers (farmers?)... by allotting Umpteenmega Eurobucks for...ripping out thousands of hectares of "lousy" vines. These same people are the ones who will "improve" lousy French, Italian wine by legalizing...woodchips... in an attempt of rendering these European wines “competitive” as against South American, Ozzie and other products.

(Part of the) truth is, that +quality+ French, Italian wine producers have been doing things right all along, yet they are “ailing”. I'm not talking "Château Frickadour" nor "Clos des Clodos" (fictituous names), whose wines might typically sell for over a hundred Euros (or quid..) a bottle. Not them, the Ferraris and the Porsches of wine, but good, decent, quality, traditional, individual +family+ French, Italian...producers, who might sell their wine in the €5.00 to €15.00 range; who might have, over many years, scraped together half a dozen upto 15 hectares of self-owned or leased vineyards. I know some who buy good wine acreage cheap, then rent a bulldozer to clear it of trees, shrubs and rocks, then plant vines and wait upto 5 years before a first crop, (literally) fighting away the boars!

In trouble, they are.
It is not these family entrerprises the European commission is helping. No. They are being told they are not competitive. They should grow, become bigger, more efficient...of course they can never compete. Because they are stubbornly “family tradition” oriented.

But look at, and taste the Chileans in your supermarket! Five to ten bucks a shot! And you will find that most of the consumers of this wine find it far better than rather more expensive French, Italian…supermarket plunk. Proud family wine producers don’t want to sell in supermarkets. The big chains press them out like lemon. What do you then find, mostly, in supermarkets? Bigger enterprises. The ones “Brussels” would help. Pretty average stuff.
What coffee do you find in supermarkets? Right. Pretty average stuff. And even stuff, perhaps slightly better, like Illy, selling at something like 7 Euros per 250 grams.

I only (relatively) recently became interested in coffee. Slowly, isolated, at home. Spent a not inconsiderable amount of money on (sometimes second hand) equipment, most lately, a roaster. The very first two roasts I did, very very recently, seem to indicate that it is with coffee much like with wine: many quality variables, many different kinds of coffee. I’m, only now, starting to realize that there are a number of “quality” factors involved in … growing coffee. Maybe not as much as in wine, but very similar.

Some would have homogenized “cooperatives” fight the “capitalists”. Others talk “fair trade”. Fair enough, I think, for the production of “standard” quality of coffee. You know, the kind of stuff that goes into the Melitta paper filter, the brown water a lot of people recognize as “coffee” (I’ve been there some 57 years of my life!), without knowing there is something else , a wholly different kind of quality product, based on a complex chain of processes…field, yield, farm process, ship, the market, …roast…, …”brew”, each constitutive element of which has a bearing on the overlapping term “quality”.

I now can better understand that, yes, those coffee growers who do an effort (and I can’t even begin to understand the full extent of that term, as I’m quite unfamiliar with the physical processes involved in producing “good” coffee, it took me many years to learn to appreciate the quality factors in growing and making wine…), those growers who work with …passion (such a nice French term!)… they need to be recompensed. Working the land, picking the beans, preparing them for shipment, the marketing necessary to sell their crop…there is no way they could work in a much more general framework of a homogenized “fair trade” principle, established to “unite the poor”. I realize this is close to politics, but I understand the …individualist. This is where I come full circle, back to the individual +family+ French, Italian…German wine growers: same thing, and same “false solutions”!
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Postby Steve » Thu Jan 10, 2008 9:12 pm

WOW love the post here here brother.
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Postby lukas » Thu Jan 10, 2008 11:52 pm

I'd have written that too Steve but feared it would tear down the quality of this thread!

This week I like my coffee luke-warm.
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Postby ivdp » Thu Jan 17, 2008 2:26 pm

A FT scheme should not be necessary, we should pay good prices to everyone.
The report was made when prices were low.
Market has recovered and producers are getting very good prices for their produce at the moment.
Now buyers are paying better prices than the FT price of a couple of years ago. If you calculate inflation, all producers are now getting better prices than old FT levels.

High prices give growers some financial freedom to invest in pruning, new planting, and possibly better plant material to grow a better coffee in the near future.
Third countries are becoming richer, like Brazil, Vietnam, China, coffee consumption in these countries is growing enormously.
World coffee balance is in balance now, but we might see soon a chronic deficit, and values for coffee be more than double than today's prices.
Let's hope that the producers will be considerate with the poor consumers when this happens.
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Postby Bertie_Doe » Sun Apr 06, 2008 9:17 pm

For those who haven't seen Black Gold, there's an opportunity here:-

Click 'Full List'
Click on Page 24

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Hottop and Precision roasters
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Postby KahawaShaun » Wed Dec 10, 2008 12:17 pm

I concur with alot of Steve's thoughts on Fairtrade. However a couple of points which may be of interest.

At a meeting of Fairtrade big-wigs and Kenyan farmers (coffee and others) I asked why Fairtrade will certify estates/large farms who grow roses, bananas, pineapples etc etc but NOT coffee farms. No answer. When pushed hard they admitted there was no social / eco reason, just that traditionally large coffee farmers were the 'bad-guys'. The Kenyan farmers were not impressed. Nice to know they will embrace and assist the grower, but only if it doesn't conflict with their PR patter.

In Uganda Fairtrade started a project with the Bugisu co-op. Uganda has a very liberlized market with minimum government interferance / tax and the farmer gets a very competative price for his bean (unfortunatly the bean then has to be transported to Mombasa, Kenya which adds a whole other layer of expenses/hassles/government red-tape). The Fairtrade Bugisu project soon folded as the farmer got a better price from the private buyers. My point here is that often the reason for the farmer getting a low price for his coffee is because of government interferance. Kenya's crop is shrinking rapidly. They smuggle alot of Kenyan over to Uganda (which often makes your Bugisu that little bit nicer then it should really be!) as they get a better price in Uganda.

In both Kenya and Tanzania the coffee crop is shrinking due to years of governments seeing the coffee industry as a great source of tax revenue. Maybe NGO's and fairtrade organisations should tackle this area to improve the coffee farmer's lot. Or would that be too difficult?

And another thing... (!) One time I sold some coffee to starbucks, they came back and gave me a HIGHER price then I wanted (and a damn sight higher then fairtrade). That increase was added directly to the bonus second payment given to the supplying farmers. Starbucks bad people? Not in my book, not in African farmers eyes either.
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Postby CakeBoy » Wed Dec 10, 2008 3:08 pm

Interesting stuff Shaun, welcome to TMC :D
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Postby mattmills » Wed Dec 10, 2008 4:36 pm

Shaun... name rings a bell, you wouldnt happen to be based in Tanz at the moment?

The estates in Kenya do not fit into the FT ideolagy... and are indeed the bad guys, but we see this all over the world.
The main issue in Kenya is the price, to coffee is just too dam expensive, and for all certifieds it is difficult to claim to save the farmers when they are already getting prices far higher than FT standard or most origins in the world.

As for the Tax... believe me it is pretty cheap in comparison to Colombia.

Great comment on Starbucks!!! It seems that only people at origin actually get to see the good work done by these sort of companies. The work that they have done over the past 10 years has been fantastic.
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Postby lukas » Wed Dec 10, 2008 7:19 pm

Welcome to the madhouse Shaun! Matt, can you elaborate on the Kenya too pricey issue? I'm not too deep in the industry and don't quite get it ...

This week I like my coffee luke-warm.
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