The Issue

At the Black Gold Foundation we love great coffee. But, to us, great coffee means more than just great tasting. We believe that for coffee to be truly great it should, at the very least, be:

  • Sustainably grown by farmers
  • Bought for a decent price
  • Sold through a short, traceable supply chain
  • Sold or served by people earning a fair wage

We think these are pretty simple and achievable principles that coffee importers and roasters, retailers and coffee shops can aspire to.


A commodity

Coffee is the second most-traded commodity in the World (after oil); provides a livelihood for over 25 million small farmers and workers, as well as billions of dollars of export income in some of the World’s poorest countries. Coffee is one of the most important commodities in the global economy (and is the biggest food import to the USA).

In the ‘developed’ World, we consume vast amounts of coffee – globally around 2.2 billion cups a day. In a global industry thought to be worth around $18 billion, the World coffee market is dominated by four multinational corporations: Kraft (owner of Maxwell House and other brands), Nestle, Proctor and Gamble and Sara Lee. Add to this the rampant trading of coffee on the commodity markets by speculators looking to make a quick dollar, global climate problems, crop failure and wildly fluctuating coffee prices, and it is a tough life growing the coffee we drink each day and take for granted.

The huge global corporations that buy up most of the World’s coffee say that consumers don’t demand fairly traded coffee from them and that’s their justification for the way in which they trade.

Niche initiatives such as fair trade and other certification schemes, have started to make an impact still only represent less than 10% of global coffee sales. We need a systematic change in the coffee trade.

For centuries, many of the most revolutionary ideas started as discussions in back street coffee shops. Let’s work together to start a new coffee shop revolution. When all of you and us, as people who love great coffee, start to shout for better standards from the retailers and coffee shops we buy from, then we can get the great coffee that we and, more importantly, small coffee farmers, deserve and expect.

Together, if we could correct the inequity in the global coffee trade it could lead the way for wider global trade.