Alicia's Food For Thought

Black Gold – Fair Trade Coffee

Hi readers!

I just finished a screening of Black Gold at the Carlyle Court Coffee House.

This information can be found on the Black Gold Website:

Coffee is not just a drink. It’s a global commodity. As one of the world’s most traded products-second in value only to oil-the coffee industry employs millions of people around the world through its growing, processing and trading. But while the coffee trade is vital to the politics, survival and economies of many developing nations, the industry’s pricing and futures are decided in conference rooms and on stock exchange floors in some of the world’s wealthiest cities.

Multinational coffee companies now rule our shopping malls and supermarkets and dominate the industry worth over $80 billion, making coffee the most valuable trading commodity in the world after oil. But while we continue to pay for our lattes and cappuccinos, the price paid to coffee farmers remains so low that many have been forced to abandon their coffee fields.

Nowhere is this paradox more evident than in Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee. Tadesse Meskela is one man on a mission to save his 74,000 struggling coffee farmers from bankruptcy. As his farmers strive to harvest some of the highest quality coffee beans on the international market, Tadesse travels the world in an attempt to find buyers willing to pay a fair price.

Against the backdrop of Tadesse’s journey to London and Seattle, the enormous power of the multinational players that dominate the world’s coffee trade becomes apparent. New York commodity traders, the international coffee exchanges, and the double dealings of trade ministers at the World Trade Organization reveal the many challenges Tadesse faces in his quest for a long term solution for his farmers.

So what does Fair Trade mean and why should I care if the logo is on my products or not?

  • Organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries and promote sustainability.
  • The movement advocates the payment of a higher price to producers as well as social and environmental standards.
  • Fair Trade’s strategic intent is to work with marginalized producers and workers in order to help them move towards economic self-sufficiency and stability.
  • Aims to allow them to become greater stakeholders in their own organizations, as well as play a wider role in international trade.


What can you do?

  1. Spread the Word – Tell your friends to purchase Fair Trade Coffee. (I told my mom to only purchase Fair Trade Coffee!)
  2. Think before your drink – Ask companies to pay a fair price for the coffee they drink.
  3. Change the Trade Rules – Persuade your politicians to make the trade rules fair.
  4. Join an organization

Something really easy you can do is to switch over to Think Coffee (if you’re in the NYC area). This is from their “About Us” section of their website:

think coffee serves only the finest coffees and hand-packed teas grown in an environmentally friendly manner and purchased by us in a way that is designed to improve the livelihoods of farmers.

think fair trade.

think organic and shade grown.

think espresso.

think wine and cheese.

And from Think’s “think fair trade section“:

Fair Trade. More than 25 million people in 50 countries depend on coffee farming for their livelihoods. The price farmers receive for their beans has a direct impact on their quality of life. In recent years, coffee beans have been trading at such depressed levels on world markets that many farmers are forced to make unfortunate choices. In some cases, farmers must decide between sending their children to school or having them work in the fields to make ends meet. In other cases, farmers stop growing coffee altogether and instead plant coca or other crops for the illegal drug trade.

Fair Trade is designed to address these problems by ensuring that farmers get a guaranteed minimum price for their product. By buying Fair Trade, you can be assured that you’re helping farmers to receive a living wage for their coffee beans and to keep their children in school where they belong.

All of our coffee is Fair Trade, no exceptions

Here is the trailer for the documentary:

I highly recommend that you watch this documentary. This film is what inspired me to get so involved with Food Politics and to become more aware of the products I buy as a consumer. I know it really is hard to remember that someone actually had to grow the food you are buying in that pretty package at the grocery store, but I want you to make a conscious effort to demand for fair trade products through your buying habits.

Thanks for reading, and hit me back if you know any other documentaries that talk about the politics of food.

Alicia Kim
Food for Thought Resident Assistant

1 Comment so far
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I rarely drink coffee, but if I did, I would go to think because I like their motto and their mission…yet, I do sometimes feel the think coffee off Mercer has that “I just graduated from NYU, so I don’t go to the Starbucks anymore, I’d rather sip here now” feel to it often.

Comment by SamanthahtnamaS

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