By Robin Sagi
With the COVID-19 crisis reaching its 15th month, countries are feeling the financial pressure. The 2021 Coffee crisis in Colombia is one such country. With such turmoil and uncertainty, countries that are already unsteady are at their most vulnerable. Citizens are reaching a breaking point and change is being demanded. We are seeing this in the United States, with the conflict in Gaza and with the protests in Colombia.
Colombia is the third highest coffee producing country in the world. It is one of our most popular light roasts and is a foundational coffee at Coffee Tree. Therefore it’s important we, as consumers and retailers of Colombian items, are aware of what is happening.
Earlier this month the president of Colombia proposed a bill that would increase taxes on small businesses, which creates an increase of vulnerability to corruption and health reform. Citizens took to the streets to demonstrate their outrage. This bill was their breaking point. Citizens responded by demanding better opportunities for youth, higher basic income and an end to police violence. These protests lasted 8 consecutive days with events still occurring on May 26th when this was written. Eight days into the protest the president retracted his submission but rage and outcry from the middle and lower class continued after what they were asking for wasn’t addressed.
With over 3 million people infected with COVID-19 in May and little financial or political support during this pandemic, seeing change is overwhelming but empowering. The actions in Colombia are very similar to what has been happening in the United States.
Countries in the global south don’t often have the resources to invest in citizens. They aren’t prepared to hand out stimulus cheques; I mean, the United States wasn’t even prepared. Therefore the lower class is left with very little. The lower class often represents those who work with raw materials. Coffee, which is the second most traded commodity in the world after oil, is also one of the most vulnerable sectors. Higher costs of transportation, labour and safety become a priority.
If we are able to cut costs it’s done at the source, directly affecting the farms we represent. We have seen first hand in this pandemic the increase of costs throughout the supply chain. To ensure we are recognizing farmers we purchase third party certified coffee such as FairTrade, Cafe Feminino and UTZ that ensure the farmers remain a priority.
Often people in the Global North refrain from purchasing goods from countries that are going through civil disputes, but this is one of the most important times to invest in a country. To feel more secure, use third party certification as a trusted guide that your purchasing power is having an impact. Our purchasing power can go a long way and buying goods that align with what you believe in will give power to the citizens, allowing them to pursue a fight for their own well-being.
Global conflicts will continue to happen, but people are becoming more aware. Citizens are asking for change and will continue to fight for their rights. It is our responsibility as consumers to educate ourselves and be aware of where things come from. As a retailer of raw materials we understand the hard work and stress that farmers are placed under and will continue to educate ourselves on what is happening.
Below is a list of resources used to write this 2021 Coffee Crisis in Colombia blog.