Frontline World

GUATEMALA/MEXICO, Coffee Country, May 2003

Related Features THE STORY
Synopsis of "Coffee Country"

Follow the Bean

Covering Bitter Grounds

History of Coffee, Fair Trade, Economics

Background on the Coffee Crisis




Links and Resources

• Background on the Coffee Crisis
• Background on Fair Trade
• Key Organizations
• Mexico: Background and Fair Trade Coffee Information
• Guatemala: Background and Fair Trade Coffee Information

Background on the Coffee Crisis

"The Coffee Crisis and Its Impact in Central America: Situation and Lines of Action"
This page of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Web site provides access to the proceedings of a three-day workshop held in Antigua, Guatemala, in April 2002 to discuss the impact that the plummeting coffee market is having on Central America. Convened by World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development and the IDB, the seminar involved a diverse group of participants, ranging from the Dunkin' Donuts restaurant chain to representatives of Central American coffee farms.

"A Way Out of the Coffee Crisis?"
This online report in 2002 was published in the Inter-American Development Bank's magazine, MicroEnterprise Americas. Author Peter Bate discusses the work of "social entrepreneurs" who have championed fair trade as an alternative to the traditional reliance on middlemen. As coffee prices reach all-time lows, many farmers are abandoning their fields, leaving coffee cherries wasting on the vines.

"The Coffee Crisis"
This January 2002 paper issued by a research center funded by the Danish government outlines the factors that precipitated the global coffee crisis and affected roughly 100 million growers. A key factor was the oversupply of robusta coffee from such countries as Brazil and Vietnam.

"Toward More Sustainable Coffee"
This June 2002 report appearing in World Bank's Agriculture Technology Notes looks at the efforts to make coffee production more environmentally sustainable. Examples of World Bank-supported projects to help fund shade-grown and organically grown coffee by Mexican and El Salvadoran farmers are cited.

"Waking Up to World Coffee Crisis"
Wholesale coffee prices have plummeted to their lowest levels in more than a century. A pound of coffee sells for about 50 cents on the world market. This article notes that the oversupply of cheap coffee beans from the world's largest and second-largest producers, Brazil and Vietnam, sent shock waves through the economies of countries like Mexico and Guatemala, for whom coffee was once king. (St. Petersburg Times, August 11, 2002)

"Why Cheap Beans Don't Make Cheap Coffee"
Why have the coffee exporters flooded the market? And why are coffee prices stable in the supermarkets and cafÈs while wholesale world coffee prices fluctuate? This BBC News Online publication offers answers to these and other questions. The question-and-answer format helps put the coffee crisis into perspective by illuminating the market forces that affect coffee. (BBC News Online, September 28, 2002)

"Crisis in a Cup"
This article from Fortune magazine opens in a coffee-growing region in Vietnam, a nation that in just 10 years expanded its coffee production to outstrip that of Colombia, putting it second only to Brazil in world coffee production. The current coffee crisis, attributed partly to an oversupply of cheap robusta beans from Brazil and Vietnam, has taken its toll in Vietnam as well. (Fortune, December 4, 2002)

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Background on Fair Trade

Open Forum: Fair Trade -- An Alternative?
The World Economic Forum, an independent organization funded by membership fees from 1,000 of the world's most prominent businesses, holds annual meetings to discuss key global issues. On this site you can watch a streamed Webcast of the 2003 open forum "Fair Trade -- An Alternative?" Panelists included a coffee grower from Costa Rica, Brazil's minister of trade and others.

TransFair USA: How Fair Trade Works
This overview, found on TransFair USA's Web site, explains the procedures required for getting a commodity certified. Coffee is the world's leading fair-trade-certified product.

Global Exchange: What Is Fair Trade Coffee All About?
Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization, has championed fair trade coffee for many years. Its Web site features information on the global coffee crisis and how fair trade has proven a viable economic solution to help farmers in coffee-growing regions throughout the world.

"Fair Trade Coffee: Coming to a Café Near You"
This article, published in November 2000 by, an alternative media Web site and brainchild of the Independent Media Institute, explains how the survival of fair trade coffee depends upon the support of a new type of activist -- the "ethical consumer."

Fair Trade Resource Network: The ABCs of Fair Trade
The Fair Trade Resource Network is a source of research and data about the impact of fair trade practices. It also works with organizations and individuals who want to become part of the fair trade movement.

Sec-C Coffee for Berkeley
This site describes the ultimately unsuccessful campaign to get the city of Berkeley, Calif., to restrict the kind of coffee sold within city limits.

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Key Organizations

International Coffee Organization
The London-based International Coffee Organization is an international agency whose members are the world's leading coffee-exporting and -importing countries. Trade data and other organization information are available here.

National Coffee Association
The National Coffee Association, founded in 1911, is the trade association for the U.S. coffee industry. The association tracks American coffee-drinking trends, which it has been doing since 1950. The site offers information about the history of coffee, the delicate science of roasting flavorful blends and even tips on how to ensure a great brew at home.

Fair Trade Federation
The Fair Trade Federation is an industry organization composed of wholesalers, retailers and producers of fair trade goods, including international handicrafts, textiles and coffee. The most recent edition of "Networks," the federation's newsletter, also is found here.

TransFair USA
TransFair USA, based in Oakland, Calif., is the only independent, third-party fair-trade certification organization in the United States. It's also one of 17 member organizations affiliated with Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International. In the four years of its operation, TransFair USA has certified 23 million pounds of fair trade coffee and has helped generate an additional $18 million in revenue for coffee growers meeting fair trade criteria. TransFair USA also certifies fair trade tea and cocoa.

Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International
The Fairtrade Labelling Organizations (FLO) International Web site, accessible in English and Spanish, shows how the fair trade movement gained an international following. Within the nexus of fair trade certification, distribution and consumption, FLO International occupies a unique niche. The organization monitors fair trade criteria for coffee, cocoa, bananas, tea, honey and other products and promotes the purchase of fair trade products by businesses and consumers.

Global Exchange: Fair Trade Coffee Campaign
Global Exchange, based in San Francisco, Calif., is a nonprofit organization that aims to engage the public in grassroots campaigns about international social and environmental issues. The organization launched two campaigns to promote the consumption and support of fair trade coffee and cocoa.

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Mexico: General Background and Fair Trade Coffee Information

Mexico Online
This site bills itself as "the most complete and independent online guide to Mexico." It features recent news headlines from Mexico, information about the country's history and culture, and maps.

BBC Country Profile: Mexico
This BBC profile of Mexico offers a general introduction to the nation's modern history, its politics and its media and facts-at-a-glance about its demographics and economy.

Independent Media Center: Chiapas
Independent Media Center, the alternative online media publication that offers "grassroots, noncorporate coverage," puts out a sister publication based in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Chiapas is on the front lines of Zapatista rebel activity -- it also is the largest coffee-growing region in Mexico. The site contains articles and information in both Spanish and English.

La Reforma
La Reforma is Mexico's largest daily newspaper. The Web site is in Spanish.

Sexto Sol Center for Community Action
The Sexto Sol Center for Community Action, a nonprofit organization based in Chiapas, Mexico, helps local coffee farming cooperatives become part of the growing fair trade community. Find out more about what the organization is doing to help repatriated Guatemalan refugees organize a coffee-growing cooperative and view an online image gallery.

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Guatemala: General Background and Fair Trade Coffee Information

Embassy of Guatemala to the United States
This official Web site of Guatemala's embassy in the United States provides contact information for government offices and departments. An extensive array of cultural, religious and artistic traditions in the nation also can be explored.

The Washington Post: Guatemala
The online edition of The Washington Post features a World section in which news articles pertaining to Guatemala can be found.

Prensa Libre
Prensa Libre is a daily newspaper in Guatemala. Text and features are in Spanish.

"Guatemala Coffee Growers Bet on Quality Contest"
This article from the eco-conscious publication Planet Ark describes a novel competition -- the Cup of Excellence -- which takes place in the Lake Atitlan region of Guatemala. In the competition, growers present their best coffee beans to nearly two dozen tasters from around the world, from Australia to the United States. One lucky winner of a past Cup of Excellence competition went on to sell his coffee for roughly 20 times the then-going market rate. (Planet Ark, April 30, 2002)

Global Exchange: Fair Trade Farmers in Guatemala
This link offers visitors an opportunity to find out about seven actual cooperatives of fair trade coffee growers working in Guatemala, according to Global Exchange.

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