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The Coffee Trade


Coffee Culture - did you know ...? Coffee chains have sprouted up on every high street in the rich world, offering new ways of drinking coffee from lattés, mochas, espressos and cappuccinos.

Colombia's coffee farmers - or 'cafeteleros' - grow Arabica coffee beans, some of the best quality coffee in the world. Most of the country's 560,000 cafeteleros have small farms. Yet coffee farmers worldwide face a crisis - in Colombia, more than 200,000 cafeteleros have already given up.
Coffee farmer
© Jeremy Horner/Panos Pictures

Click on the numbers to find out which ten countries produce the most coffee.

Production of coffee in millions of kg, 2003


Do these countries have anything in common?

© Mark Henley/Panos Pictures
Predicting the Future

The International Coffee Organization (ICO) used to stabilize coffee prices with quotas to limit the amount of coffee on the market at any given time. But under new international trade rules, this is no longer possible. Instead, traders on futures markets in London, Tokyo and New York have a greater influence. They gamble on price changes based on news or rumours of events that might change the supply and demand of coffee.

Imagine you are a trader in the London futures markets. Drag the events to decide how you think they might affect the price of coffee.

Today, there is just too much coffee on the market, and prices have fallen to a 30-year low. Click here for a spreadsheet of world coffee prices 1984-2003. Use chart wizard to show the price changes on a line graph - click here if you need some help.
New kid on the block: Vietnam

See who gets what when you buy a jar of coffee by dragging the different people to sections in the coffee jar.

Did you get the proportions right? Very often, the processing, shipping and roasting stages are owned by the same transnational companies.

Feeling the Pain

While prices for a jar of coffee do not change much, many transnational companies are making massive profits but are paying coffee farmers less and less. What's more, they are buying more of the cheaper Robusta beans, which is terrible news for Colombia's Arabica bean growers. Some cafeteleros are not even picking their coffee - it costs them more to harvest it than the money they would get for their beans.

Roll over the icons to find out how this affects Colombia's cafeteleros:

Colombian cafeteleros do get some help. The National Federation of Colombian Coffee Growers, or FEDECAFE, pays subsidies to farmers when coffee prices fall, and puts money into services and infrastructure in coffee-growing areas. But world coffee prices are now so low that FEDECAFE cannot help enough.

A Better Deal?

Fair Trade coffee is offering Colombian farmers some hope. Working together, farmers can pool their resources as a co-operative, and can sell coffee directly to European and American markets. This way, they get more than twice the price for their crop. The extra profit is pumped back into the co-operative to pay for better technology and better conditions for farmers' families.

More than 7% of the UK's coffee market is now Free Trade. Café Direct works with co-operatives in 11 different countries. They buy beans directly from the co-operatives, instead of middlemen. This way, Café Direct is helping 250,000 coffee farmers and their families get a better deal.

Do Something!

Some cafeteleros now grow bushes of coca instead, to meet the worldwide demand for cocaine. 80% of the world's cocaine comes from Colombia. Go to the next page to find out more.

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