|Expose’ Details Coffee Cartel’s
Exploitation of Ethiopians
In Ethiopia, where coffee originated, over 15 million people are dependent
on this aromatic bean for their very survival. In fact, the country generates
about 67% of its total revenues via exports of this coveted commodity.
So, with such multi-national corporations as Kraft, Nestle, Procter & Gamble,
and Sara Lee competing in this $80 billion-dollar industry, one would
think that the farmers would be able to demand a fair price for what
Tragically, this is not the case, as eloquently explained in Black
Gold, a perplexing expose’ documentary directed by Nick and Marc
Francis. What these brothers found was that while companies like Starbucks
are reaping record profits, none of the benefits of coffee’s skyrocketing
popularity has trickled down to the farmers trying to eke out a living
in cash-strapped Ethiopia.
The picture points out that they are paid 23 cents a kilo for their coffee,
which ultimate sells for about $230 per kilo, a figure arrived at by translating
the $3/cup rate charged by the upscale retail outlets. All the profits from
this tremendous mark-up benefits the aforementioned cartel which sets the international
price for coffee, the world’s 2nd most actively traded commodity (behind
oil), in New York and London.
Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, the average worker in the coffee industry earns 50
cents a day for their grueling work, whether in the sweltering fields or in
a fetid factory. The film amply illustrates that this meager salary is barely
enough to subsist on, as family providers frequently find themselves having
to choose between spending money on food, clean water, shelter, clothing or
education for their children.
There is a touching scene in Black Gold where we see Ethiopians earnestly
engaged in a prayer ritual begging God to raise the praise of coffee. This
tableau the directors cleverly offset with telling interviews in which clueless
consumers living far away in the lap of luxury in la-la land acknowledge having
no clue about the desperate plight of the folks who farmed the beans for the
brew they’re enjoying.
The premise powerfully postulated by Black Gold is that not only Ethiopians,
but millions and millions of other Africans are also suffering due to the paltry
prices paid by big business for natural resources which most people from developed
countries take for granted. Africa is already the only continent to grow poorer
over the past 20 years, so the urgent message which must be heeded is that
until the West becomes willing to pay fair prices , the rape of the continent
will continue unabated, leaving vast populations in economic crisis, stranded
and seemingly without recourse in increasingly dire straits.
Excellent (4 stars)