If you drink coffee, that is. If you aren’t, I’m not recommending that you create a new addiction, but if you happen to be like me and millions of other hopelessly addicted caffeine junkies, you should at least be aware of the larger economic implications of your habit.
Some basic facts: coffee is the second most actively traded commodity in the world, after oil. Since 1990, retail sales of coffee have increased to $80 billion from $30 billion. Globally, about 2 billion cups of coffee are consumed a day – and 400 million of those are in the United States. Four multinational corporations (Philip Morris, Procter & Gamble, Nestle, and Sara Lee) control 70% of the world coffee market, with the international price determined in New York and London.
At the other end of the equation, more than 25 million farmers and coffee laborers depend upon coffee cultivation for their livelihood. Most of them live in dire poverty because the price of coffee has fallen drastically in recent years. By drinking Fair Trade Coffee, you are supporting efforts to guarantee coffee farmers and workers a fixed price for their product, which in turn will help support the sustainable development of their communities. (Fair Trade has more than just economic implications, however. Click this link to learn more.)
Why is a rabbi going on about Fair Trade Coffee? Because I believe it’s a mitzvah to drink it. After all, Judaism teaches us over and over again to be socially responsible consumers, to act justly toward workers and to alleviate poverty in our world. So what could be more Jewish than drinking Fair Trade Coffee?
My personal favorite is Mirembe Kawomera (“Delicious Peace”), a Fair Trade Coffee produced by a Ugandan Jewish/Muslim/Christian cooperative. It is distributed in the US through Thanksgiving Coffee and can be easily bought via the Internet.
So you should drink Fair Trade Coffee. And if you want to support economic justice AND interfaith cooperation in a world that desperately needs both, you should drink Mirembe Kawomera.