Friday, June 01, 2007

Black Gold - the real costa coffee


The Telegraph's environment correspondent Charles Clover carries an interesting wake up article about the true cost of the coffee we all buy from the burgeoning chain outlets. As an aficionado of the delightful aromas of the high street coffee brands, I've put up with the wallet busting prices just for the luxury of my morning, afternoon, or evening Latte. Clover reports the findings of a new film documentary, 'Black Gold', due out in cinemas this Friday. Take this - for every £2 we spend on our cup of coffee, just 2p goes to the actual coffee growers.

It was this dichotomy that inspired Nick and Marc Francis, 'Black Gold's' makers, to do their documentary. As Clover reports:

The Francis brothers were in Ethiopia, intending to make an entirely different film, when they were struck by the irony that there was a famine in the birthplace of the beans that supply the West's booming coffee chains...

...the shocking fact that the Francis brothers have uncovered is that Ethiopian women spend long days in factories hand-picking coffee beans for half a dollar a day (around 25p) while their children go uneducated and malnutrition is rife.

Somehow, my morning coffee doesn't taste quite so good. There are, of course, steps we can take, as a well known Head of Geography at SGS might have already told us. For a start, several certificated schemes operate (the best known of which is Fairtrade) designed to ensure more money heads into the pockets of the under-rewarded growers, and several of the chains do operate these if you ask them. I know I'm a little late in waking up to this, and as an unreconstructed capitalist believer I'd like to see the coffee growers benefit in a properly market oriented fashion, but at least kowledge can help guide our buying habits. Meanwhile, I'll certainly be in line to see that film - makes a change from those Michael Moore documentaries trashing Bush, even if Bush is clearly to blame for the plight of the coffee growers!

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