Colombian Coffee Farms – The Economics and Production
You drink it everyday, but what do you really know about it? After spending time with the Colombian coffee farms, I wanted to take a second to write about coffee. San Agustin is in Huila, the largest coffee producing region in Colombia. The farmers sell their coffee for a very small amount, leaving most of the profits to giant multinational cooperations. Buying fair trade coffee is the best way that you can help the farms, along with avoiding big name companies like S***bucks.
Coffee comes from a short tree, you might called it a bush. A mature plant is about as tall as me and has green leaves and berries on the limbs. Once the berries are ripe they turn red and are picked. These red berries are put through a machine that separates the red and sweet outside from the seed in the middle. This seed in the middle is washed several times then spread out to dry for 4 days in a greenhouse-like structure. After the coffee is dried it is put into huge sacks and sold to the local coffee buying conglomerate. In Colombia, the buyer ships all the coffee to either Buenaventura on the Pacific coast, or to Cartagena on the Atlantic coast. From each of these seaports all the coffee then goes to the west and east coasts of the United States.
The most interesting thing we learned about Colombian coffee farms was how little the farmers actually make for the coffee they grow. Lets say you go to Starbucks and get a $1.50 for an 8 oz coffee. How about we say that for every pound of coffee beans Starbucks can make 30 cups . That means Starbucks sells coffee for $45 per pound. The Colombian coffee farmer sells his unroasted beans for about $40 for a 120 pound sack. So with these numbers the farmer makes approximately 30 cents per pound, or less than 1% of the S***bucks price.
This doesn’t really make much sense to us. We definitely want to investigate this issue further, and delve into how the fair trade certification process works, and how much more fair trade farmers make.