I’m feeling sick, embarrassed, angry, frustrated, ashamed, etc. etc. this week. No it’s not jetlag. It’s because the University of St Andrews (where I am a student) has just awarded an honorary degree to Mohammad Khatami … in law of all things! I condemn the university for this gutless decision.
Each year, coffee companies make billions of dollars. Starbucks alone earned almost $5.8 billion in net revenues during the first three quarters of 2006.
Yet, for every cup of coffee Starbucks sells, poor farmers in coffee-growing countries like Ethiopia earn only about $.03. Even worse, while Ethiopian farmers grow some of the finest name-brand coffees in the world – think Harar, Yirgacheffe, and Sidamo – they don’t see the premium profits those names command among consumers.
With as many as 15 million Ethiopians dependent on coffee, Ethiopia has decided to get its farmers more of what they deserve. The country’s government has asked Starbucks to sign a licensing agreement that will allow Ethiopia to control the names of its coffees. That way, Ethiopia can help determine an export price that makes sure farmers see a larger share of the profits enabling them to feed their children, send them to school and get them better healthcare.
Oxfam and a coalition of allies are asking Starbucks to sign this agreement. According to one coalition member, control of the name brands could increase Ethiopia’s coffee export income by more than 25 percent – or $88 million annually. This money could go a lot way to help lift millions of Ethiopians out of poverty.
So please, help us convince Starbucks to sign this agreement with Ethiopia. Poor farmers deserve a fair share of the profits.