Coffee Farmers in Americus
Foreign coffee growers plea for more fair trade
April 28, 2004
Plains- Americus coffee roaster owner Bill Harris led small coffee farmers through the boyhood home of Jimmy Carter Wednesday.
"This is a poem he wrote about growing up on the farm," Harris told the group.
The coffee growers have that in common with America's 39th President. They're in Georgia representing thousands of small coffee farmers and making a plea for more fair trade with the U.S. Without it, they say, many people in their countries will keep suffering.
"They cannot meet school fees for their kids, hospital bills for their kids, all the basic essentials," said Raymond Kimaro from Tanzania.
"There aren't many options out deep in the mountains of Guatemala," Harris said. "And coffee is one thing that will grow there that can be exported." Harris is the president of Cooperative Coffees, one of the U.S. groups spreading the word about fair trade. He also owns Cafe' Campesino in Americus, where he pays more to buy his beans. "So the fair trade system guarantees a price that at least pays a decent, makes a decent living for the farmers."
Small farmers who don't deal through fair-trade groups, have no other choice but to sell their beans to dealers who buy the crops at a low price. Some of those beans are bought by huge coffee corporations. The goal of fair-trade is to make consumers more conscious about where their products come from. "Not only coffee but many of the things that we buy that are brought in to this country," Harris said. "We don't know where they come from, we don't know the conditions under where they were grown or produced." Consumers can get fair-trade coffee brands in grocery stores by asking for them, he said. The brands will have a seal that says fair-trade certified.
Stopping in a cafe in downtown Plains after a visit with Carter is a way to help make people aware. "More consumers buying their coffee with a purpose, knowing that they're going to help small farmers and give them a decent living," Kimaro said. Allowing them to securely live the small farm life, a life that Carter himself once lived.
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