The value of coffee
The value of coffee

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The value of coffee

1 Investigating money and coffee

The trade of coffee across the globe is made possible because of the exchange of money. There are a number of stages in the process of transforming a coffee seed into the roasted beans that are brewed to make your daily cup. At each stage, money changes hands so that the final price of a cup of coffee in a coffee shop represents much more than just the cost of the raw coffee bean.

Figure 1 A breakdown of the costs that make up your cup of coffee

Figure 1 reveals the breakdown of costs within a £2.20 cup of coffee. Study this figure and answer the questions below.

Activity 1

About 15 minutes

Question 1

The coffee farmer receives 8 pence for every £2.20 cup of coffee sold: true or false?

Answer

False

The farmer who plants, cultivates and picks the coffee receives only a share of the 8 pence portion for the coffee. That portion must be split between coffee roasters, importers, exporters, haulage companies and farmers, all of whom hope to make the business of exchanging coffee a profitable venture. It is not always easy for everyone in the coffee chain to secure a fair share.

Question 2

Shop rents, retail taxes and staffing costs account for the majority of the cost of a £2.20 cup of coffee: true or false?

Answer

True

The figure reveals that shop rents, retail taxes and staffing costs account for about £1.58, or 72%, of a £2.20 cup of coffee.

Question 3

Do you think it is fair that the coffee shop makes 30 pence profit on each cup of coffee, whilst the farmer shares a percentage of the 8 pence portion?

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Answer

To answer this question, it is necessary to think about how to judge what is fair. The notion of justice is often contested because what seems fair for one person or society may not be considered fair if we take into account the needs or experiences of another person or society.

In this case, it could be argued that because the raw coffee bean must be processed, transported, stored, roasted, brewed and poured by a skilled barista before it can be consumed, it does not seem unfair that the farmer only receives a small percentage of the value of the bean. The raw coffee bean is very different from the roasted blend that ends up in your coffee cup, and incurs a number of costs along the distribution chain that the farmer has not borne.

However, if the situation is looked at from a different perspective, the answer to the question is different. If the coffee farmer is unable to make enough money from the sale of his beans to support his basic needs and the needs of his family, while those higher up the coffee chain make a large profit from his labour, it could be argued that the situation is unfair.

There are no right or wrong answers to the question and your values and experiences will likely shape how you think about this.

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