Christopher Pratt (cpratt) wrote,
Christopher Pratt
cpratt

Meanwhile, in another universe...

Oxfam has been campaigning against Starbucks lately [see an article in The Economist for further info], which of course got me thinking... It's strange, but also probably kinda obvious, that the wine business has a lot in common with the coffee business. Both industries are all about producing beverages that no one really needs - it's strictly optional, what they do. In both cases, the farmers out there producing the basic materials don't get much of the profits; the cost of grapes is often one of the smallest things you pay for when you buy a bottle of wine. Vinification, oak barrels, transportation, marketing, packaging, etc. may all cost you a lot more.

Consequently, I imagined that one day in the future, you might see a Web page like this one. After all, Gallo is obviously exploiting the French farmer by buying their grapes and selling them for ten times what they paid (marketed as Red Bicyclette, available at your local supermarket for seven bucks or so. Beware: residual sugar may surpass even [yellow tail]'s.)

Of further interest to me is the notion that trademarking geographic terms of origin [think Feta, Parma, Champagne, Burgundy, Parmesan, Rioja, etc.] will somehow magically transform Ethiopian farmers into affluent Westerners. Now, call me elitist, but I bet that most of you have never heard of places such as Yergacheffe and Harrar. Even if you had, would you pay extra for those names because you know that excellent coffee comes from there? And will this really impact the bulk of world coffee sales, which are crappy Robusta beans from places like Brazil? I'd look to other coffee producing areas around the world for guidance - are farmers any better off in Sumatra or Yemen?
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