There’s a big problem in coffee—we’re not paying enough for it. With every clickbait article talking about how much you can save by cutting out your daily latte habit, you might be wondering how that’s possible. But coffee, much like other agricultural products like sugar or bananas, has relied on colonialist structures to survive—meaning that while we can buy and sell coffee in consuming countries for $3.00 a cup, most of the folks who actually farm and grow coffee see less than a dollar per pound for the coffee they produce.
Coffee is in a crisis—because coffee is traded as a commodity, its price depends on the market, which means that, right now, many farmers are forced to sell their coffee for less than what it cost to produce. Farmers are actively losing money when they produce coffee, and many have been forced to lay off workers, sell their farms, and encourage their children to abandon the farm and look for more lucrative work elsewhere.
So what are we doing about this? Ric Rhinehart is the head of the Coffee Price Crisis Response Initiative, and the former head of the Specialty Coffee Association. In this episode, we talk about how the crisis began, and what his group is looking to do to change the trajectory of coffee farming and selling.
The price crisis isn’t simply a dip in the marketplace or a momentary blip, but is reflective of the colonialist way we have traded coffee for centuries—depending on the labor of folks from one country to serve the tastes and trends of another. It is inherently exploitative, and you might question if it is ethical to buy coffee at all.
Obviously, these are big questions—and that’s why I turned to the person in charge for answers. Along with speaking tangibly about the price crisis, Ric also explores how meaning is created, who are the value adders of any supply stream, and how we can shift an entire industry model to provide equity to all actors.
This is a hugely important topic, so we’re airing this on both the Good Beer Hunting podcast and on my show, Boss Barista! If you’re familiar with one, you should check out the other—both cover big ideas surrounding the things we like to eat and drink.
This is Ric Rhinehart of the Coffee Price Crisis Response Initiative. Listen in.