The EU-CELAC ‘Partnership’ fails the coffee test

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Fernando Morales-de la Cruz

The value chain behind a cup of coffee provides a striking example that, in spite of all beautiful words about EU’s commitment to development aid, this business amounts to rude exploitation, writes Fernando Morales-de la Cruz.

Fernando Morales-de la Cruz is an entrepreneur, journalist, political consultant, and an adviser in international relations, public diplomacy and nation branding, has worked in Latin America, Europe and Asia. He campaigns on , or on twitter @CAFEFORCHANGE.

The European Union hosts the EU CELAC “Partnership” Summit in Brussels on 10 and 11 June. It brings together presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers of 61 countries and the EU institutions, that is, the 28 members of the EU and 33 nations from CELAC – Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.

The EU-CELAC meeting is promoted by the EU as the “Partnership” Summit, EU propaganda calls 2015 “the European Year of Development”, Europe claims to be the largest donor of foreign aid. However, the unfair shared value of every cup of coffee that is drank in the EU offices and throughout Europe is an appalling example of European understanding of: partnership, sustainable development, aid and shared value when dealing with its former colonies. I dare to affirm that the EU-CELAC Summit “Partnership” fails the most basic coffee test.

Less than €0.01 of every cup of coffee consumed in Europe helps eradicate poverty or achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in coffee producing nations. “Fair Trade” certifications supported by EU nations are not the solution. The brand “Fair Trade” in coffee translates into less than €0.002 per cup, that insignificant amount will never bring real prosperity to coffee communities.

This is extremely important because in Latin America more than 80 million people depend directly or indirectly, totally or partially, from the production of coffee. CELAC nations produce more than 50% of all coffee in the world.

Because Europeans drink more than 700 million cups of coffee every day and most coffee is imported as a commodity, the European coffee industry generates tens of billions of euros in added value, taxes and profits for EU nations, while in Latin America tens of millions live in poverty or extreme poverty in coffee producing regions. The contrast is nothing less than neo-colonialism.

The value chain of the coffee consumed by Europeans is socially unsustainable and exploitative.

The Nespresso consumed at the European Parliament in Brussels is one of the most extreme examples of lack of shared value. The parliament pays Nespresso about €70 per kilogram of coffee, and in turn the Nestlé subsidiary pays the coffee farmers about €3 per kilo of green coffee. This literally means that every time a member of the European Parliament or an Eurocrat drinks a coffee, he or she is sending at least €0.11 to a bank account as profits for Nespresso and leaving less than 1 cent of euro to compensate the dirt poor coffee farm workers.

It is time for real EU-CELAC PARTNERSHIP as defined by the dictionary, not by Eurocrats. It is time for SHARED VALUE, not for false claims to aid the poor. The partnership should be evident in every cup since coffee is important for both the EU and CELAC. Coffee is only one case but there are many other EU imports where compensation by Europe does not consider cost of living wages or local taxes.

If the EU nations really want to help eradicate poverty they should adopt a compensation of @10CentsPerCup of coffee to help eradicate poverty in coffee producing regions. All Eurocrats can afford @10CentsPerCup! I am also certain most European coffee lovers could too. @10CentsPerCup is not aid or charity. It’s an act of justice. Less than one cent per cup is not partnership. It is exploitative!

The question remains open: Will the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union ever adopt a REAL partnership model in every coffee?

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