Of the 1.6 million farmers and workers involved in Fairtrade around the world, about half are small-scale coffee farmers. Coffee was the first product to be Fairtrade certified when the first Fairtrade coffee from Mexico hit shelves in the Netherlands in 1988. Currently Fairtrade coffee farmers can be found in 30 countries.
Around the world, 25 million smallholders produce 70-80 percent of the world’s coffee, which is one of the reasons why Fairtrade focuses its efforts on small producer organizations. No matter what or where your favourite cup of coffee is – fresh ground or instant, in a café or in your kitchen – there will be a Fairtrade product for you.
Legend has it that the energising effect of the coffee bean was first recognised by a 9th-century goatherd in the Kaffa province of Ethiopia, where the coffee tree originated. Coffee was almost certainly cultivated in Yemen long before the 15th century when Sufi mystics reportedly drank it to keep awake during extended hours of prayer.
The drink was spread by Muslim pilgrims and traders across North Africa and the Middle East, where Arabian coffeehouses became centres of political activity. The Dutch planted coffee in Sri Lanka, India and Java in the late 1600s and later in South America. Within a few years Dutch colonies became the main suppliers of coffee to Europe, its production associated with colonial expansion and slavery. Coffee soon became one of the most valuable primary products in world trade. The first UK coffee house was opened in Oxford in 1650, followed two years later by one in London.
Global coffee consumption doubled over the last 40 years from 4.2m tonnes in 1970 to 8.7m tonnes in 2013. Coffee producing countries consume 30 per cent of the world’s coffee, led by Brazil whose consumption reached 1.2 million tonnes in 2013. The remaining 70 per cent of coffee produced is traded internationally; the US is the biggest importer, followed by Germany and Japan while the UK is the 8th largest importer accounting for 3.3% of world coffee imports.
Coffee is grown in more than 70 countries but over 60 per cent of the world’s coffee is produced by just four of them – Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia and Indonesia. Latin America is the largest regional producer with a 60 per cent share, followed by Asia and Oceania (27%), and Africa (13%).
For countries that produce it, coffee exports generate a significant proportion of national income and are a vital source of the foreign exchange earnings that governments rely on to improve health, education, infrastructure and other social services. For instance, Burundi relies on coffee for 60 per cent of its export earnings, Honduras for a quarter, Nicaragua for nearly a fifth. In Ethiopia, 15 million smallholders, nearly a fifth of the population, depend on coffee for their livelihood – high global commodity prices contributed to record coffee exports in 2010/11 which accounted for 30 per cent of the country’s total export earnings.
In Uganda, half a million smallholders produce coffee, the primary source of income for around 2.5 million people or 8 per cent of the population.
Coffee is one of the world’s most popular beverages.
In the UK, we drink approximately 95 million cups of coffee per day, it is a lucrative multi-billion pound business.
However, a closer look at the supply chain shows coffee is a complex and often an unfair affair for the person behind every bean – the farmer.
Fairtrade drives a fairer, more sustainable way of trading.