Coffee, Costa Rica, And Cooperatives: How Producers And Consumers Responded To Changes In The Global Commodity Market

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2019-05-01

Authors

LeBrun, Jared

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Abstract

For centuries, coffee has been produced in the global south but consumed in the global north, connecting the two regions via a complex and largely invisible trading market. However, over the past three decades, both producers and consumers have been forced to reevaluate their role in this commodity chain as prices reached historic lows in a period known as the coffee crisis. This thesis focuses on this relationship between farmer and buyer in the wake of the coffee crisis, analyzing how the low prices and concerns for producer welfare changed the landscape of the coffee market. Split into three sections, the thesis first provides an overview of coffee’s introduction to Costa Rica and how the commodity shaped the nation’s history. Next, the thesis focuses on changing consumption patterns in the United States, including the gradual decline in coffee consumption, the rise of specialty coffee, and the growth of the fair-trade movement. The final chapter merges these two narratives, analyzing how Costa Rican coffee producers responded to these changes in the American market. This research relies on interviews conducted at a coffee cooperative in Atenas, Costa Rica, whose experiences with fair-trade highlight both the benefits and shortcomings of the ethical labelling movement.

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