Is the international coffee market coming home to Ethiopia?
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This MA Report explains the impact coffee cooperatives are having on the Ethiopian coffee industry. It analyses how the current multi-billion dollar global coffee industry began in what remains one of the world’s poorest countries, where arabica coffee was discovered sometime before the sixth century. It explains the emergence of coffee cooperatives historically, as well as their present role offering an alternative to the country’s previous reliance on the assistance of Western nongovernmental organizations with their possible negative impact, including arguments they enforced a dependency on Ethiopia that impeded the country’s development. In discussing coffee buyers and coffee consumption, the report focuses on America, although the same points made apply to the vast majority of Western countries. The report investigates whether cooperatives offer a business model sufficient to achieve self-sustainability for Ethiopian coffee farmers, and discusses how the interaction between and among cooperatives, unions, the Ethiopian government, and specialty coffee buyers in America is enabling Ethiopian coffee to increase its leverage on the international coffee market, generating essential income for the struggling Ethiopian economy. The report focuses on the following areas: the connection between poverty and linkage to markets; how coffee travels from smallholding farmers in Ethiopia to be sold in American cities like Austin, Texas; the emergence of certification systems like Fair Trade to protect farmers and ensure they receive a fair price for their produce, as well as the chain of commerce that Fair Trade is part of; the quality and characteristics of Ethiopian coffee; and whether cooperatives and unions can remain true to the original goals of serving their farmer members—not turning into purely profit-orientated businesses. While this report focuses on Ethiopia, it dissects and debates economic trends that usually affect developing nations producing coffee. It explores the logistics and ethics of prices paid in the West for coffee from developing countries like Ethiopia. The report ultimately aims to enlighten readers so they’re able to make an ethical purchase of a good quality coffee, while aware of the myriad factors and trends affecting the international coffee market.
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