A huge portion of the coffee industry grew up around customs that still define it now and have considerably contributed to environmental deterioration, the devaluation of agriculture as a food source, and the degradation of the human being in both his agricultural and consumer roles.
In short, as is now obvious to all, an economy based solely on maximum profit at any cost, regardless of quality or low prices, can only be based on maximum exploitation from the beginning to the end of the chain, leaving people to perform only the role of consumer, allowing the wheel to keep turning and the system to remain intact.
Climate change, along with huge, unexpected, and dramatic migrations, has only exacerbated the precarious situation of a large portion of the population that relies on coffee for survival.
Coffee, like other agricultural products, is a commodity sold on the stock exchange, and its value is decided by financial speculations coming from future contracts that define the market, rather than by varied qualitative features, demand and offer of certain qualities.
Coffee is thus the commodity par excellence, and it is so on a global scale, as it is the most traded commodity after oil. Changes, innovation, and virtuous choices that we manage to apply in the coffee sector, both as producers and as consumers, might thus be exemplary and repeatable for testing new measurements in agriculture and the global economy.
The relevance of all supply chain actors, including consumers
All players must participate in order to change the rules, and everyone must become aware of how their own behaviour and individual choices are crucial in this process of global improvement, according to the associations and movements that have been seeking change in the coffee industry for more than thirty years.
Every step in the manufacturing chain is being asked to shift from an industrial to an artisanal mindset, from a consumer to a user, and from a passive to an active position.
I talk of an artisanal approach, emphasising the inventive qualities that can emerge from a contemporary craftsmanship culture built on awareness of one’s position and options, the opportunity to experiment and provide new answers to questions, method education, and information exchange.
Contemporary craftsmanship is capable of valuing labour and producing a product that embodies a new definition of quality.
Contemporary craftsmanship is able to give work worth and produce a product that embodies a new concept of quality, one that does not represent the convenience of a standardised market but rather adds to a taste education as well as the diversity and individuality of food.