>The Global Coffee Trade, a Bitter Brew for the Poor
(The New York Times, 6 Oct 06)
“The documentary “Black Gold” tells an unresolved modern version of the age-old David and Goliath story. The giants in this case are multinational corporations that control the worldwide coffee market. The heroic little guy, Tadesse Meskela, represents the Oromia Coffee Farmers Co-op Union, which encompasses 74 co-ops in southern Ethiopia. That country, the birthplace of coffee, produces some of the highest-quality beans in the world.
“Mr. Meskela devotes himself tirelessly to traveling the world looking for buyers who will pay a fair price for the beans harvested by the nation’s 70,000 coffee farmers. Instead of wielding a slingshot, he works circuitously by eliminating many of the middlemen who drive up the price of coffee and bypassing commodities exchanges to sell his product directly to buyers. His cause has been embraced by the fair-trade movement, which is working to bring so-called fairly traded commodities like chocolate and bananas, as well as coffee, to increasing numbers of American grocery stores.”