Today, I was blessed to be able to make an announcement at our staff meeting that went something like this:
Coffee is the 2nd most valuable traded commodity in the world. It’s also the US’s largest food import.
There are over 130 million coffee drinkers in the US. Worldwide we consume over 12 billion pounds of coffee per year.
About 75% of coffee comes from small farms that depend mostly on their own family’s labor. These small farmers compete directly with the big coffee plantations. But the middlemen who buy their coffee often force them to accept prices that are half the market rate. So at .30-.50 cents/pound for the 1-3,000 pounds they can produce in a year, their annual family income is between $500-$1,000; or about ¼ of what a typical family of five needs to live on.
For those who work on the big coffee plantations, the conditions vary, but often aren’t much better. In Guatemala, for example, a worker has to pick 100 pounds of coffee a day to make their $3/day minimum wage. Over half don’t make it, so they bring their children, sometimes as young as 6-8 years old to help them meet their quota.
Our company makes about 384 pots of coffee per month. Our enjoyment of coffee produces a market not only for coffee beans, but also for slave labor, human trafficking, and an endless cycle of poverty.
Psalm 82 tells us to:
Defend the poor and fatherless;
Do justice to the afflicted and needy.
Deliver the poor and needy;
Free them from the hand of the wicked.
And Jeremiah 9:24 tells us that lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness are things the Lord delights in.
So in order to support the justice that God calls us to, we have started buying Fair-Trade coffee.
The Fair Trade process seeks to assure farmers and workers earn a fairer wage. It also invests in community development and supports environmentally sustainable agricultural processes. This coffee costs us more, but we think justice is worth the extra $1.50 per pot that it will cost us.
So now you can enjoy that cup of coffee knowing it is backed by a just process that delights our Lord.
We didn’t plan it, but amazingly, God orchestrated the timing so that this announcement coincided with a devotional message on the topic of Justice. The most memorable quote for me from that message: “Justice is giving them what they need, not what they deserve.”