An increase of five cents in the cost of a cup of coffee would significantly improve the income of producers, claims renowned sustainable development expert Jeffrey Sachs, who was speaking at the first World Coffee Producers Forum in Colombia earlier this month.
“We need to revisit mechanisms that make consumers pay a little more and producers receive a little more. The idea of fair trade is not cutting it. It’s not generous enough and it doesn’t transfer enough,” he argued.
An economics professor, senior adviser to the United Nations and bestselling author, Sachs is the director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
Making simple calculations, Professor Sachs estimated that a pound of coffee is the equivalent to about 25 cups of coffee. At a price of US$1.25 per pound, coffee producers receive barely 5 cents per cup of coffee.
“If consumers pay 5 cents more per cup of coffee, producers will receive twice what they receive today. A slight increase for consumers would mean a huge increase for producers. That is fair trade.”
Sachs said that in high purchasing power markets such as the US and Europe this slight increase would not be detrimental to consumers, especially if it takes place on a voluntary basis. He noted that if consumption increased by one cup per day, there would be a substantial increase in demand that would stimulate production and raise the international price.
Referring to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (former Millennium Goals), Sachs noted that coffee “has a fundamental role” as a driving force for rural development and social welfare. “Coffee is a key product in and of itself,” he said.