As the global coffee crisis grows ever worse, a new human rights campaign has exploded across the United Statesdemanding fair trade and a living wage for impoverished farmers. The campaign, which is spearheaded by the GlobalExchange, is calling on Folgers, the international coffee giant, to support growers by buying Fair Trade Certifiedcoffee. It was officially launched on December 15 in a series of supermarket protests that took place across thenation.
The new corporate accountability campaign comes in response to a worldwide collapse in wholesale coffee prices. Thecollapse has pushed millions of farmers into poverty and debt and threatens to ruin an entire generation of coffeefarmers. While dozens of coffee companies have responded to the crisis by buying Fair Trade Coffee, Folgers hasrefused. The Procter & Gamble-owned company is one of the largest and most profitable coffee sellers in the world.
For dozens of developing countries, coffee is an essential cash crop, with some 20 million households depending on itfor a living. But in recent years, this living has been harder and harder to make as international coffee prices haveplummeted to an all-time low. The global price of coffee is now 43 cents per pound, down 50 percent since 1999.
The result of this coffee crisis has been widening famine and social instability in countries as diverse as Kenya,Columbia, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. The UN World Food Program estimates that 150,000 refugees have been created bythe collapse in prices. Meanwhile, transnational corporations and 'designer coffee' retailers are posting recordprofits.
- Deborah James, director of the Fair Trade Program, Global Exchange.
- Paul Baker, Environmental and News Service Coordinator, Nicaragua Network.