First, I would like to thank you all for allowing me to come here to tell you [about] the human conditions in coffee growing countries, in particular focusing on my country’s small holder coffee farmers which produce 95% of the countries fine coffee. I would also like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Blessed Coffee and its supporters for making today’s event possible.
Before I share the human side of coffee’s story, I would like to mention a few points as to why I decided to travel ten thousand miles to be here with you today. The first thing is to share my stories as a founder and General Manager of OCFCU.
After founding OCFCU in 1999 and [starting to] sell coffee to the USA in 2001, OCFCU was registered as a certified organic coffee producer & exporter in 2001 and Fair Trade certified cooperative in 2002.
- Promotional activities and campaigns were conducted with Oxfam International and Global exchange on the “make trade fair campaign.” This is the year, 2002, when I came to know Tebabu Assefa.
- Since then 30,000 tons of coffee [have been] sold to the specialty market.
- Membership has grown from 22,000 to 200,000.
- $5m USD in dividends have been paid to members.
- Member farmers have [the] possibility of getting enough food and clothing and [their] kids got [the chance to go back] to school.
- Since 2003 the following infrastructure [improvements] have been made from Fair Trade premium and coffee roasters. These are…
- 11 primary schools grade 1-4
- 5 upgrading schools grade 4-6
- 6 upgrading schools grade 6-8
- 3 upgrading schools grade 8-10
- 3 new high schools grade 8-10
- 33 additional class rooms were built
- 8 health posts [clinics]
- Clean water
- 62 clean water supply pointers
- Bridges – 4
- Flour mills – 4
That’s why I traveled ten thousand miles to confirm my endorsement and support of this noble idea – to return 1 USD for 1 pound of roasted coffee sales which is unique and the first of its kind in the world coffee industry.
Now let me share the current state of coffee contribution produced by 80% of poor, small holder coffee producers and how the world coffee trade system functions. To help draw a contrast, I would like to share some facts with you…
- Coffee is one of the actively traded commodities in the world.
- Coffee is the second [largest] foreign exchange earner for developing countries, and also in the world – next to oil.
- Coffee is the second highest consumed beverage, next to water, by human beings.
- Over 2.2 billion cups of coffee are consumed every day.
- The United State is the largest coffee consumer in the world, consuming 450 million cups of coffee per day and 162 billion cups of coffee per year.
- Japan is the third largest coffee consumer in the world.
- In Italy, there are over 200,000 espresso bars, serving 14 billion espressos per year.
- In the US, there are 22,000 coffee shops for over 300 million people.
- The average cost of a latte is 1000% greater than the amount of money a farmer will receive for a pound of green beans. What’s more disturbing is that, in a retail environment, you can pull up to 40 full strength espresso shots sold for average of $120 USD from a pound of coffee beans bought for $2 USD/lb.
- Over 80% of the world’s coffee production is handled by small holder coffee farmers.
Obviously, the coffee business is good for the corporations and for those who engage in the retail arena. The question is, why is it that the producer of such a valuable agricultural commodity, that is loved and consumed by billions of people around the planet, cannot afford to…
- Feed their children?
- Put closes on their backs?
- Have access to drinking water?
- Afford simple pain medication, like Tylenol?
- Learn how to read and write?
I understand that you want some answers for the above mentioned realities. And I could give you a list of answers; some of it might be debatable.
No matter what the answer might be, it’s unacceptable to allow a fellow human being to suffer such a gross injustice. We believe it’s morally, economically, politically, and environmentally wrong, period. More than anything, it’s not sustainable. Anyone who has based their business on the hope of finding a permanent loser has [an un]sustainable business, I’m always telling business people that, in order for them to have a viable and prosperous and sustainable business, every company needs to incorporate human dimensions. Tebabu and [his] associates are one of the few who respond; to the need of the farmers in returning $1 USD from a pound of roasted coffee.
I worked hard almost all my adult life to earn a bit more for coffee farmers and their families, so that kids will have at least one decent meal a day. I’ve participated through Fair Trade and other certifications mechanisms like Organic, and Utz’s. I will tell you this: those programs have helped out, but they have not solved all our problems.
I’ve attended every meaningful seminar and trade conference. To tell you the truth, I am more encouraged from what takes place today here, which has objective of returning $1 USD for a pound of roasted coffee. The proposal Blessed Coffee offers the union provides the opportunity for the farmers to invest and compete in the specialty coffee market. This opportunity empowers us to improve our social and economic conditions as well.
I would like to remind that you’re shouldering over 200,000 vulnerable people’s wishes and hopes. As long as you remain true to your business concept [and] mission, you will achieve your stated goals. I am confident that gives the opportunity to make an impact on social and economic development in Maryland. This is a noble proposal, and we promise to cooperate and work hand in hand with Blessed Coffee and the community here to make this vision come true.
Thank you Blessed Coffee for inviting me to come out here.
Thank you to my good friend Tebabu for being visionary.
I encourage everyone to spread this pure and healthy message. I will join you in the near future to celebrate Blessed Coffee’s progress and accomplishments.