Coffee Notes from All Over

  • Hey, that’s pretty savvy for Wall Street. TheStreet.com’s Eileen Gunn takes a peek at Fair Trade — and Fair Trade coffee, in particular. For a publication that’s altogether dedicated to Free Trade it’s a remarkably balanced, and only remotely snarky read. Still…

    “[T]his is where my capitalist instincts start to twitch. I’m always skeptical when someone tries to argue to me that subsidies are simultaneously superfluous and essential.

    Moreover, those prices include a 10-cent premium for social and environmental programs (such as building schools and health clinics and teaching new farming techniques). In 2006, those dimes added up to roughly $91 million in social aid from the U.S. to growers in places such as Honduras, East Timor and Guatemala. That’s nice, but is it trade — communities benefiting from earned profit and prosperity — or is it non-tax-deductible charity?”

    That’s it in a nutshell, isn’t it? The naked capitalist is entirely confunded about the difference between charity, and simply doing the right thing. For them the difference between a hand-up and a handout is entirely a question of whether or not you get a tax write-off. (sigh)

    Just the same, I’m always happy to see capitalists twitch. Good for the soul.

  • Meanwhile, the big kids continue to play with the box it came in. Procter & Gamble is suing Kraft over packaging. Since introducing its plastic AromaSeal canister in 2003, P&G has seen sales of Folger’s coffee climb. Now that Kraft has launched its Maxwell House brand coffee in a similar container P&G has cried foul. ‘Course the real foul here is their coffee, which, were it lavished with the same attention as its packaging, would be something to talk about. Meanwhile, both brands continue to lose ground to specialty coffee, in the grocery and beyond.
  • Is somebody being clever? The headline reads, Uganda: Coffee Producers Are the Biggest Losers. While the article speaks to the unequal share of profits that coffee growers receive in the Ugandan coffee trade, it could as well be speaking to the latest trend among Ugandan exporters: actually *losing* the coffee. In just the last few months more than 20 containers (each with about 20 tons of goods) have arrived at their destination filled with — wait for it — dirt. Apparently the coffee was stolen before it left port, and they had to put *something* in the box.

    Hey, that’s kinda like the story just before it, huh?

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