The shift to technified coffee production, that requires farmers to exclusively grow coffee, has had a major ecological influence. It requires a new type of coffee bean to grow effectively, but the process also requires around 140 liters of water goes into growing an average cup of coffee. A study by University of Kansas (KU) has revealed that this and other factors have contributed to the plight of coffee farmers in poorer nations along the equator.
The KU researcher studying trade and globalization revealed that the shift to technified coffee production in the 1970s and 1980s has created harsher economic and ecological consequences for heavy coffee-producing nations, such as Honduras, Colombia, Guatemala, Brazil, Vietnam and Ethiopia.
Alexander Myers, a doctoral candidate in sociology, said, "Historically, coffee has been exploited by the West in various ways, because it is consumed in rich countries, and grown in poor ones. The traditional coffee growing method in smaller shaded areas needed much less water and also allowed farmers to diversify their crops and use their land to plant other crops as well. Especially these peasant farmers who maybe have a small plot of land, they rely almost exclusively on coffee sales to sustain themselves."
Major drops in commodities prices of coffee beans to around $0.50 per pound in 2001 nearly wiped out economies of those poor nations. Myers said, "That really hit the farmers hard, and it caused a lot of these family farms that have historically relied on coffee to keep themselves afloat."
Myers further added, "It is very taxing environmentally. What we do matters. The choices that we make, the products that we buy have an impact on somebody."
The study will be presented at the ongoing 110th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA) in Chicago.