Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Soap Box: Black Gold and Fair Trade

Coming back from London on Virgin last week, I watched "Black Gold" - a film that documents the plight of coffee farmers in Ethiopia.

Now, I am a dedicated capitalist and profiteer. But like most capitalists, I know better than to starve my suppliers: nothing good comes from this.

The coffee industry has chosen to ignore this principle, and instead is putting such a squeeze on these farmers that many are leaving coffee cultivation and migrating to narcotics, such as chat.

The reason for growing narcotics is simple: their children are starving and need to eat, be medicated, and educated. The narcotics can be easily grown and sold at market price.

When I got off the plane in Miami, I resolved to start buying at least some free trade produce. I put in an order for some fair trade coffee.

I very much doubt that Starbucks, Nestle and Kraft will notice I'm buying $20 less of their non-fair trade products every week, but they might if you start doing this too.

Last night, my first pack of "fair trade" Ethiopian Harrar coffee arrived in the mail box. I researched the firm I bought it from , and they are buying this coffee directly from the Ethiopia Farmer's Union featured in the film. Next baby step: reduce use of Nestle at the office.

If you're interested in learning more about this, and helping rebalance things, here's a link.

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