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The Bottom of the Coffee Supply Chain

The Bottom of the Coffee Supply Chain

As both Coffee Farmer and Coffee Roaster, we have always been conscious of the  well being of the coffee farmers at The Bottom of the Coffee Supply Chain. It is a well know fact that the world’s coffee growing regions in the “Coffee Belt” are very impoverished countries with farming and export of their products being as close to a sustainable source of income as is available. Hard to believe are the conditions of many of the coffee farms across the belt given we rely on coffee morning, noon and night; you would suppose more care would be available to the souls that bring a coffee plant to life.  Since coffee is the #2 Global commodity, sometimes it is hard to see those who are responsible for farming and harvesting  are the most  under-appreciated, overlooked and are in the bottom of the coffee supply chain.

An Article from one of our Operation Give Back Visits

Reggie’s Roast Coffee has always been conscious of giving back to those who give to us, and over the years have been able to do so through Operation Give Back.  As a native Jamaican Coffee Farmer, we have been able to help provide health care screenings and donated time and profits to the Coffee Farmers in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains. This is not to brag by any means, just to show the importance of taking care of those who give us so much in tilling the soil, getting up early and going to bed late, working to ensure quality by hand-picking all of the coffee on our farms.

Given Jamaica provides .05% of the worlds coffee supply, it goes without saying that there is an enormous number of farmers at the bottom of the coffee supply chain who are struggling at best to provide a living and ensure sustainability for their farms and families.

Which brings about the case in point referenced in an article from The Daily Coffee News from April 2014 which revolves around Marcos Camil of Ipanema Agricola in Brazil who was attending an S.C.A.A. event on his first trip to the U.S. He went into a Starbucks and was shocked when he saw the price of a cup of coffee here is one day’s pay at the Coffee Farm’s  Origin. Sad but all too true. We have spoken about this topic before and again I reference this Article: Farm Workers left behind: The Human cost of Coffee Production.

That is not to say some buyers haven’t helped along with supply chain issues; it has improved greatly in some areas. However, there are several farms where poverty, food and work security, and child labor are still a widespread problem. The majority of the coffee industry is not sustainable regarding farming conditions. On a trip to a coffee farm, Pascale Schuit was shocked as she quoted “ witnessing cruel realities such as farmers leaving babies in the field among snakes and scorpions while they worked, and children in the field with untreated mental disabilities.” This truly can be defined as the Bottom of the Coffee Supply Chain.

This is not to say it’s all bad, the impetus of the Marcos’ invitation to the S.C.A.A. event was to bring a face of the farmer to the industry and begin to find a way to create short term sustainability. From the discussion some very valid points were made:

–  Part of the program involves bringing farmers together from other farms and countries to also collectively share issues and insight. We can’t create sustainability for workers, we have to create sustainability with workers.

-All panelists agreed that certifications of many kinds can be a useful tool in addressing the “farm worker problem,” but that they can only go so far in long-term sustainability. For now, they said, the responsibility must also fall on industry to help bring farm workers into the sustainability discussion.

Still, Marcos will return to Brazil and share his story with what I would expect to be very sullen farm workers.

This post is in alignment with recent posts on our blog in hopes that as consumers become more aware of where there coffee is sourced, that they will understand and be more conscious of the actual conditions their coffee is grown in and be aware of what is actually at the bottom of the coffee supply chain.



                                  Fair Trade is a Start in Helping Coffee Farmers