Ethiopia Stirs Up Coffee Industry

Fair trade to get a lot more fair if trademark approved
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 10, 2007 3:33 PM CST
Coffee beans could prove to be a precious commodity for Ethiopia.   (Associated Press)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – Ethiopia is trademarking its distinctive coffee crop, a move that could bring $88 million a year to the impoverished country, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Coffee connoisseurs happily pay up to $10 per pound for beans from Ethiopia’s Yirgacheffe region, but less than $1 of that goes to farmers growing it. Obtaining the trademark could change all that, much to the chagrin of distributors such as Starbucks.

“It's quite innovative for a branding initiative to come out of the developing world,” said one Oxfam America official. “It’s a big deal.” So-called “fair trade” initiatives, which use profits from specially marked coffee to launch humanitarian projects, have helped somewhat, but producers aren’t satisfied. “Rather than charity, we want to sell the best quality coffee at a decent price,” said one grower.