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Tim Wendelboe

Coffee is cheap

Nothing frustrates me more than people complaining about coffee being expensive. The fact of the matter, is that coffee is extremely cheap if you start looking at the amount of labour and how many people are involved in the chain from seed to cup. The C-market price today is about the same as it was 30 years ago, ranging from USD 1,30 to 1,60 per lb (453g) of green unroasted coffee.  In other words, the majority of coffee farmers are getting the same pay today as 30 years ago. I can’t imagine anyone in the consuming countries, especially in Norway,  being satisfied with having a salary that correlates to the salaries paid in 1982.

I realize that the lack of knowledge and education is a contributing reason why we get some customers who complain about our coffee being expensive, especially when a supermarket coffee cost about US$13 per kg in Norway and our coffee costs US$65 per kg and up.

Of course, there is a difference in how the coffee is produced. The biggest roaster in Norway roasts about 13.000 metric tons of coffee per year. We roast about 22 tons per year. In 40 minutes we have  roasted and packed about 12 kg of coffee, in the same amount of time the biggest roaster has roasted and packed about 2000 – 3000 kg of coffee, so the logistical setup, coffees bought and production line are running on a completely different cost.

With the current market price for coffee, most farmers in Colombia are losing money. The reasons for this are – the rising cost of labour, fertilizers, food, electricity, pesticides, interest on loans, etc. The average farmer in Colombia has about 2 hectares of land with coffee and it is in many cases their main source of income. I believe their best chance to compete with the current prices is by moving towards quality production and finding customers who are willing to pay for the quality; as there is no way they can compete on price nor quantity with the big factory farms in Brazil.

In my next post I will try to give you a small insight of the cost of producing quality coffee in Colombia. Hopefully it will make more people realise that we’ve got to start paying more for coffee and demand more transparency if we want to continue drinking this delicious beverage.

Read more in part 2

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