Where is coffee produced with forced labor?
According to the United States Department of Labor (2010) coffee is produced with forced labor in Côte D’Ivoire (CDI) and with child labor in Colombia, CDI, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, El Salvador, Kenya, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Tanzania, and Uganda. Other reports have found forced labor throughout Latin America, particularly in those countries which the Department of Labor has identified as using child labor.
Coffee Production and Supply Chain
After coffee is harvested, the seeds are dried either by the sun or on more mechanized plantations by machine. Beans are then hulled, sorted and graded for quality before being roasted. Forced labor may occur at all stages but is most likely to occur in harvesting.
According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (2004) coffee is the second most traded commodity world-wide after oil.
The largest coffee producing countries, in descending order, are Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, Peru, Ethiopia, Mexico, Indonesia, and Guatemala (FAO). The largest importers of coffee are Europe, the U.S. and Japan (UNCTAD 2004). “In the past decade, the proportion of value added to coffee in the industrialized world has increased significantly. The share of producing countries’ earnings in the retail market decreased drastically by the early 2000s, to between 6% and 8% of the value of a coffee packet sold in a supermarket” (UNCTAD 2004).
Coffee and Fair Trade
Fair Trade coffee has risen in popularity as a means of combating the wide variety of exploitative labor conditions in coffee harvesting. One of the root causes of forced and child labor in coffee is the low prices and lack of price stability for farmers. Farmers who participate in the Fair Trade program receive $1.69 per pound rather than the average market price of $1.29. Fair Trade certification also requires adherence to a number of labor standards, including the prohibition of forced and child labor. However, while demand for Fair Trade Coffee is growing rapidly, as of 2006 only 3.3 percent of all coffee sold in the U.S. was Fair Trade (Downie 2007).
How does forced labor in coffee affect me?
Coffee is one of the most commonly consumed beverages in the world.
What does forced labor in coffee harvesting look like?
Few large-scale studies have been carried out on forced labor in the coffee sector; however, anecdotal reports confirm its existence. For example, the U.S. Department of State (2010) acknowledged the existence of forced labor on coffee plantations in Guatemala. In CDI, scrutiny of child and forced labor has primarily focused on the cocoa industry and its use of youths from Burkina Faso and Mali, some of whom are trafficked into CDI. Reports cited by the U.S. Department of Labor (e.g. Anti-Slavery International 2004) imply that similar conditions may exist in the Ivorian coffee sector. As few farmers rely solely on cocoa, it is likely that children and adults working on these farms also work in the production of other commodities including coffee.
Where can I learn more?
Read a summary of the global coffee trade.
Anti-Slavery International. The Cocoa Industry in West Africa, a History of Exploitation. 2004. http://www.antislavery.org/includes/documents/cm_docs/2008/c/cocoa_report_2004.pdf.
Downie, Andrew. “Fair trade in Bloom”. New York Times. October 2, 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/02/business/worldbusiness/02trade.html
Fair Trade USA. “Coffee”. http://www.transfairusa.org/products-partners/coffee
International Coffee Organization. Roasting. n.d. http://www.ico.org/making_coffee.asp
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Commodities Atlas: Coffee. 2004. http://www.unctad.org/en/docs/ditccom20041ch4_en.pdf).
United States Department of Labor. 2010 List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. December 2010. http://www.dol.gov/ilab/programs/ocft/pdf/2010TVPRA.pdf
United States Department of State. 2009 Human Rights Report: Guatemala. March 2010. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/wha/136114.htm
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