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Coffee Crisis

As flavorsome coffee pours out from machines across the world, the millions of workers who pick the coffee beans, the second most-traded commodity in the world, are often overlooked. On faraway hillsides they toil amid dire working conditions with little pay. Volatile price fluctuations, lack of credit opportunities and aggressive plant plagues leave many farmers in a vulnerable position.

Jarman started covering coffee issues in the late 1990's, when a surge in coffee production in Brazil and Vietnam created oversupply in the global markets, causing wholesale coffee prices to plummet. Nearly 25 million small-scale coffee producers faced financial ruin, and many were forced to abandon the crop.

Through continuous assignments, she has witnessed the proliferation of specialty certification programs aimed to protect farmers, such as fair trade, organic, and bird friendly, that promise guaranteed quality premiums to small-scale farmers organized in cooperatives. These certifications have been marketed as a panacea solution, but the programs are not without pitfalls, critics argue.

Jarman’s most recent coffee work takes us to Central America and Southern Mexico, where persistent outbreaks of coffee leaf "rust" continue to threaten crops throughout the already volatile region. The situation is causing a new coffee crisis that has growers and authorities scrambling for answers. She is also documenting an innovative fair trade project involving a Nicaraguan coffee estate that aims to treat its workers in a more dignified way. 

 



Credits

Janet Jarman Videography and Interviews / Filip Lein Editor / Zena Barakat Senior Producer, The New York Times / Kati McKoy Production Assistant


Resources

Climate change predicted to halve coffee-growing area that supports 120m people The Guardian

International Coffee Organization

Fungus, Climate Change Threatening Big Part of Global Coffee Supply National Geographic

A Coffee Crop Withers: Fungus Cripples Coffee Production Across Central America The New York Times

Coffee Rust Plagues Farmers in Mexico The Guardian

World Coffee Research

Women in Coffee

A Coffee Seller Seeks to Cut Hunger Among Coffee Growers The New York Times Opinion Pages

Certifying Coffee Aids Farmers and Forests in Chiapas The New York Times

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