The Coffee Glut

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Gimme a couple of cappuccinos, one soy, one with an extra shot, ahhhhh 10 bucks. Chances are, what you spend on two cups of frothy coffee is a full week’s wages for the farmer who grows the beans. It’s a market story. There’s a coffee glut. Prices are down. It’s business, dog eat dog. It’s also, not that simple. Some farmers in Colombia and Peru are going back to growing coca, because it pays better. Others are abandoning their farms, and those sticking it out find themselves in deepening debt. High-grade coffee is about the only part of the business where the prices are holding.

So what’s wrong with the business? Fair Trade people say one answer is in cutting out the middlemen, and paying a premium for sustainable growing methods, but that’s not the whole story. Coffee prices, good till the last drop.


Robert Everts, co-director of Equal Exchange

Ted Lingle, executive director of the Specialty Coffee Association

Bryan Lewin, an economist in the Rural Development Division of the World Bank

Carlos Vargas, manager of the Coo Cafe, a coffee farmer cooperative in Costa Rica