Starbucks ruffled by success of coffee documentary

29th January 2007
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MPs will be given a private screening today of the highly-acclaimed film ‘Black Gold’, a documentary which charts the exploitation of coffee growers in Ethiopia.

The film focuses on the paltry prices offered by roasters and coffee chains to growers, many of whom receive only $1.60 per pound of coffee beans, even under ‘fair-trade’ conditions. Roasters can sell the coffee on for between $20 and $26 per pound, and retailers can make up to $160 per pound.

Tadesse Meskela, the director of the Ethiopian growers cooperative Oromia Coffee, told the Guardian that coffee farmers are “living hand-to-mouth”:
“We need $4 a pound minimum. That’s only fair,” he said.

Starbucks, the major retailer at whom the film points a finger, has reacted frostily to accusations that it has failed to give the farmers a fair deal, insisting that it pays Ethiopian farmers above the market price for their beans. But in October, the Guardian revealed that Starbucks had blocked attempts by Ethiopian farmers to trademark their coffee – a move which would have ensured a more equitable price.

The Treasury Secretary, Ed Balls, is said to have given his backing to Meskela’s campaign, adding that it is essential the World Trade Organisation restart talks called off last year.

Black Gold, currently being shown in America, will be released here in April. For more information on the film, visit