Business World

You Decide If Our Industry Is Worth It

While I was still marveling over all the noteworthy seminars held at the recent NCA Convention, I read Maya Wallengren’s excellent article on Reuters concerning the number of people involved in the coffee industry. She got me thinking - people grow coffee, ship coffee, import, roast, manufacture and serve coffee. People produce cups, mugs, cookies, displays bins - all to accompany coffee. What if that cup of coffee no longer exists? She asks if we think we should care. If the farmer goes away, aren’t we all affected? Wallengren writes, “Out of about 115 million 60-kg bags and exports of 89 million bags, that would transfer into a total of 4.644 million jobs. Yes, the producers have created the oversupply, which is the main cause of the current low prices and the root of the current crisis. But thanks to these same producers, coffee is a major international business responsible for creating several million jobs in the U.S., Japan and Europe. Should we care about seeing this industry surviving into the next century? You decide.”

No one could have said this any better. Thank you Maya - I hope this opens all our eyes.

At the convention, representatives of the World Bank spoke on placing the coffee crisis in perspective. Panos Varangis spoke about the fact that coffee remains singularly important for developing countries: economically, socially, and environmentally. He observed structural changes in production as well as structural changes in demand. The World Bank is coordinating with the IDB and USAID in Central America, Colombia, and Mexico. They are assisting the farmer in diversification, hitting niche markets, improving productivity, lowering marketing costs, and promoting the environmental value of coffee.

Let’s face the truth: we are all seeing more Robustas being purchased, more blends being downgraded. I have a wonderful friend who worked in Seattle 10 years ago. She returned to New York, praising the virtues of a major roaster there, and pursued purchasing their coffee here as it became more and more available on the East Coast. This past Easter, she asked me what was happening to coffee. Her favorite brand doesn’t taste like it used to. There’s a definite decline, she told me.

So guys, let me tell you…people are noticing. Do you want to lose them to a competitor or to another beverage? You decide.

Jane McCabe
Editor & Co-Publisher

Tea & Coffee - April/May, 2002

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