Coffee, Child Labour and Covid-19
New Kings Coffee are dedicated to providing you a range of high quality coffees from around the world; experiencing a variety of roasts, aromas and tastes. All of our coffees are single origin, Fairtrade and Organic, ensuring they provide only the very best, whilst supporting the people and environments in the coffee growing regions.
Jason Nichols, founder of New Kings Coffee, reflects on the importance of protecting people and planet through the Fairtrade certification.
In the light of the recent reporting of child labour on Guatemalan coffee farms, it feels timely to comment on our company view on the coffee industry and what we do to combat bad labour practices in the sourcing of our coffee. After all, coffee is the second most consumed beverage in the world, and with the extraordinary demand it’s important to establish sustainable and ethical means of producing the product. We want to ensure that we sell a product that we feel people can consume without any regrets regarding sustainability and ethics, and that’s why we have chosen to only use organic Fairtrade coffee in our coffee bags. That way you can be sure to enjoy your favourite cup of coffee – guilt-free.
Labour practices on coffee plantations can be quite tricky. While the typical image of the coffee grower is often depicted as South American families who have been in the business for generations, carefully picking out each coffee bean to ensure perfection, this is often not the case. With 125 million people depending on coffee for a living, and many of these working on small-scale farms in rural areas, it’s a hard industry to regulate. There are many reports and studies suggesting that slavery like conditions and child labour are both common practices in many of the countries with large coffee productions. On top of this, large-scale coffee farming frequently uses pesticides harmful to both the environment and the people working the plantations. While this is, of course, deeply saddening to hear, we are hopeful that this situation is changeable through humanitarian solutions such as Fairtrade.
Coffee beans are usually produced in countries in the Global South, such as Guatemala, Ethiopia, Colombia and Honduras, and the raw commodity makes up large parts of the respective countries’ total income. The majority of this raw product is sold to countries in the Global North, where the coffee is roasted and sold to consumers in grocery stores and coffee shops. It’s also in this later stage where most of the profit is made. On average, only 7-10 percent of the retail price is being paid to the coffee farm growing the original beans we are so infatuated with, and the majority of this is used to ensure further production rather than as wages to growers. Additionally, especially relevant now with a potential Covid-19 induced financial crash, there’s the threat of the market price dropping substantially, leading to many farmers and their families suffering the consequences.
These are some of the reasons why we at New Kings Coffee have decided to ensure all our coffee bags are made with Fairtrade-certified and organic coffee. We are happy to be working with Fairtrade due to their set requirements for workers’ social, economic and environmental conditions at all coffee plantations. Fairtrade also has an internal procedure of action to ensure the development of a world free of child-labour, and acts on every claim in cooperation with experts and child rights organisations. Additionally, to ensure a living wage for its producers, Fairtrade sets its own minimum price for coffee. This protects coffee growers from the changing market prices and certifies they get a fair profit for their hard work. Furthermore, it provides coffee communities with a Fairtrade premium, which local producers can choose to invest in whatever they think will improve environmental, social and economic circumstances for their respective communities.
At New Kings Coffee we have also decided to only use organic coffee, which for us is the apparent choice if you want to reduce as much harm dealt to the environment and its people as possible. Whereas Fairtrade has already established good working conditions for its farmers, organic production of coffee beans puts additional restrictions on the amount and kinds of pesticides and fertiliser used in taking care of the lands. By doing this, we ensure planters can use their land for as long as possible without ruining the soil and their own health. Another pro is that this will ultimately lead to less hazardous chemicals in the final product (organic coffees also hold more of the healthy antioxidants!), so it’s better for you while also being better for the environment.
All in all, Fairtrade offers practical ways to ensure that our coffee is the most sustainably and ethically produced in the modern coffee industry, which is why it’s so dear to us and why we make use of it. And with this, we hope you have found yourself either reaffirmed on your decision to buy Fairtrade coffees, or newly convinced to try one out. It is after all, ultimately our consumer decisions that decide whether child labour, low wages and environmental degradation will continue to be normalised or not.