How much do you pay for your cup of coffee? In the United States we pay on average $2.90 for our cup of joe. Something you should think about the next time you drink your caffe mocha or that frappuccino. The farmers who cultivate the coffee bean plant get less than half our retail tag. This has left the farmers of Ethiopia struggling and living in poverty because they earn less than half a dollar a day.


The documentary “Black Gold” reveals the the stories behind several farmers  and “exposes the truth behind the growing, buying, and consuming of one of the world’s most traded commodities” (

It highlights that although coffee is the most valuable trading product in the world after oil, the farmers are leaving the trade because the pay is extremely low and they can’t support their families. Coffee being the main export out of Ethiopia, has eventually left it’s coffee farmers in the dust still not seeing much of its gold. Ethiopia is the largest producer of coffee in Africa. Over 15 million people in Ethiopia depend on coffee for their survival and it provides 67% of its export revenue. The supply of coffee on the world market used to be regulated by the International Coffee Agreement, until it collaped in 1989. Ever since the collapse of the International Coffee Agreement, it’s farmers have been living in the state of poverty and has fallen into a 30-year low.  The Oromia Coffee Farmers Co-Operative Union represents over 74,000 coffee farmers. This union buys coffee from 101 co-operatives spread across southern Ethiopia, and trying to find new co-operatives for the farmers so they may get at least 5 birr per kilo of coffee.

To give you an idea of how much the coffee farmers get paid for cultivating this black gold the currency in Ethiopia is a birr. One birr is $0.12 cents (USD), our average cup of joe is $2.90 which is 25 birr. Eighty cups of coffee makes up 1 kilo of coffee. If you multiply the eighty cups by the 25 birr we get 2000 birr or $230.00 (USD). So 1 kilo of coffee costs 2000 birrs. The amount of money that a farmer gets when they sell 1 kilo of coffee is on average 2 birr or in USD $0.23.

So how is it that the price for coffee is determined? The international price of coffee is established in New York and London. Another fun statistic that will shock you since 1990, retail sales from coffee have increased from $30 billion to $80 billion (USD) a year. Four multinationals dominiate the world’s coffee market: Kraft, Nestle, Proctor & Gamble and Sara Lee.

 Make this documentary a top priority to watch this summer. I know being a coffee fanatic myself, I can’t sip another latte knowing that a coffee farmer in Ethiopia is making less than half a dollar a day while I consume my two cups of coffee a day. The sweat and labor of these coffee farmers hunched over everyday with a machete cutting through bushes and checking their beans for maturity constantly and making less than half a dollar can not go unnoticed by the world. It takes 4 years for a coffee plant to fully mature, and another year to produce adequate coffee beans for sale. We must make a change and mail coffee companies and take appropiate action as consumers to make a difference to these lives who depend on us assist them in this campaign.


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Get a breakdown of how much of the money you spend of coffee goes where at this link: