Here’s where it all starts! In order to get your morning pick-me-up the process has to begin with putting a seed in the ground! Coffee grows most prevalently in the latitudes between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer. This area has ideal climate for growing beans and is often referred to as the “bean belt”. Two popular beans of coffee make up most of the coffee selection we know today. Arabic coffee matures in 7 to 9 months and produce large and round cherries. Robusta coffee typically matures in 11 months and produces a smaller, oval shaped cherry. However, before a coffee tree or bush matures to the point of producing fruit, it can take up to 4 years just to get to this point in its ‘career’! (“Where Coffee Grow”)
While the coffee bean was originally discovered in the Middle East, it didn’t take very long for coffee to travel around the globe via merchant ships. Most of the coffee we consume today is actually the product of many different countries from within the bean belt.
A prevalent concern when evaluating the role that farmers have in coffee production is the wages in which they’re paid. 80% of today’s marketable coffee is produced by 25 million small coffee farms (Goldschein, Eric). This sounds like a great way to support local farmers, however, it’s often used to exploit the wages at which farmers are paid. In some instances, farmers make as little as 1-3 percent of the retail price for their beans. Buyers of these coffee beans are at an economical advantage because there are many factors which are out of the farmer’s control which would vary the market value of coffee – such as adverse weather, fluctuating demand, shifting market shares, and various economic policies. (“The `Latte Revolution’?”)
The effects of farmer exploitation stretch further than just an empty wallet. Child labor becomes prevalent for farmers who experience lowered pay-per-bean. This usually means that these children are pulled from schooling in order to aid the family in working the farm. These children work in potentially hazardous environments around dangerous machinery which is used for harvesting or processing. Additionally problems include excessive working hours, poor living conditions, crowded lodging, and lack of safe drinking water. (“COFFEE’S HIDDEN KICK”)