Fair Trade Brewing at Black Coffee Film Screening

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Written by Tadesse Meskele

If you woke up this morning, climbed out of bed, and stumbled straight for your coffee maker, you were not alone: every day, we consume about two billion cups of coffee around the world. But while the industryís value has multiplied in the past ten years ñ now worth $80 billion ñ the farmers who grow the beloved beans are a far cry away from reaping the profits. In Ethiopia, where 15 million people rely on coffee to sustain their livelihoods, many farmers receive a meager 23 cents per kilo of beans.

This is the bitter reality portrayed in Black Gold, http://www.blackgoldmovie.com/ a documentary featured on campus Tuesday evening by Oxfam, Planet Bean, OPIRG and the Central Student Association Human Rights Office. The film follows the plight of Tadesse Meskele, manager of the Oromia Coffee Farmers Co-operative Union in Ethiopia, as he attempts to find independent buyers who are willing to work directly with his cooperative.

The film juxtaposes heart-rending scenes of life in the poverty-stricken coffee regions of Ethiopia against the high powered trading floors of New York City, excitable Starbucks managers, and the 2003 World Trade Organization negotiations in Cancun.

ìOur main aim is to bring more money into the coffee farmersí pocketsÖand to improve the coffee farmersí lives,î Meskele said in the film.

He explained that coffee farmers in Ethiopia would need to receive ten times what they do now simply to satisfy their basic needs such as clean water, nutritious food, and an education for their children.

After the film, Meskele was available to take questions from his audience in the Bullring, where he elaborated on the Oromia co-operative and the basics of fair trade coffee.

The co-operativeís coffee is certified by the Fairtrade Labeling Organization (FLO), which inspects the its financial books, farms, and working conditions on a regular basis. In Canada, FLO certified products are labeled with the TransFair Canada logo. According to Meskele, the annual fee collected by FLO is easily offset by the higher price co-operative farmers receive for their beans when they are sold on the fair trade market.

Last year, students at the University of Guelph passed a CSA referendum question promoting the sale of fair trade coffee on campus.

ìThe referendum question about fair trade gave the Code of Ethical Conduct committee the clout to recommend to the administration the switchover to fair trade coffee on all ënon-branded hospitality services,íî explained Cailey Campbell, the CSAís external commissioner.

ìBrandedî coffee vendors, such as Tim Hortons, remain exempt from the recommendation. The company does not purchase any Fair Trade coffee, but say they assist some coffee farmers through their new ìcoffee sustainabilityî program

Meskele, however, is unequivocal on the importance of certified fair trade to self-directed social and economic development in coffee farming regions.

ìIf trade is fair," Meskele told students, "there is no need to look for aid.î

| More


Back to Top
  1. Posted by: Roli on Sep 21, 2007 @ 12:45pm

    Having awoke, at an impressionable hour, with all my senses groggy in the grounds of Guelph. The boiling urgency of my worldly belief was percolated into a period of concentration and eased constipation: my education! However, thinking of coffee in reality, as in my recollection, brings to mind the majestic scene of coffee brewing. In this, we miss the full conceptualization of the labour and the history of struggle associated with the beatific bean.

    As our understanding of the topic becomes more complete, so will our assessment that the system of production be made more fair. At McGill, a not-for-profit cafe is able to sell fair trade coffee for 50cents. It is possible suckahs,

    So too, my enigmatic comment be.

  2. Posted by: Jason on Dec 13, 2007 @ 1:35am

    I have 70-700KG of fair trade, organic guatamalan green coffee beans available for purchase.
    Contact for a quote

Share your thoughts

Bookstore First Year