The worldwide demand for coffee has hit the world’s forests hard and so it is important to try to make educated buying choices when buying coffee. Efforts are underway to try and make production more sustainable but in the meantime, it is important we all try to understand and make the right choices.
Coffee is the world’s second most traded commodity after oil and is a lucrative and highly rewarded industry. The recent overwhelming success of big name coffee houses and the massive spike in supermarket sales has led to huge demand, but at what cost? Does the money that these big names make actually ever trickle down to those who grown and harvest the coffee and how green are they really? Is the high street coffee industry one which we should welcome or one which we should avoid?
In the past, complexities involved in the supply chain of coffee have meant that the 100 million people who grown coffee all round the world have not benefited from the huge profits involved. As an average, coffee farmers will receive just 10% of the eventual retail price and competition between growers has increased.
Price reductions and undercutting are just two of the reasons which is harming the coffee growing market. Not only this, but demand for coffee and pressure to produce it as cheaply as possible has spelt bad news for the environment. Coffee growing regions are some of the most delicate eco-systems on the earth and for that reason alone, there is potential for serious and irreparable damage to occur.
So where does the British Consumer come in?
Despite the Brit’s love of tea, British consumers spent over $730 million on coffee last year which equates to around 500g per head. What is more, our growing love of coffee has seen the number of high street coffee houses quadruple over the last decade. However, it seems that alongside this growth our awareness has risen too with more than 6.4 million cups of Fair-trade coffee being consumed each day. Organic sales are on the rise too with a range of brands now finding their place on our supermarket shelves.
However, there is still a long way to go. Six million Fair-trade cups compared to the 70 million cups which are drank each day is quite a small percentage which hopefully can be rectified soon with greater awareness.
What does conventional coffee production mean for our planet?
The biggest environmental damage is caused in the production of the beans themselves. Demand has placed serious pressure and has massive implications on sustainability. Coffee is traditionally grown under canopies of trees which also provide home and shelter for a huge range of animals, bird-life and insects. However, now sun grown coffee has been developed and offers a more efficient and money saving way of coffee production. This has led to the widespread use of fertilizers and deforestation which has a devastating effect on the bio diversity of the world’s forests.
Guest post written by Abbie Wilson, using her jura impressa machine to start her healthy, green day.