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Cote-d'Ivoire-cashew-smuggling
For arable countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the money made on agricultural exports is often invaluable. It can strengthen a government’s budget, benefit farmers who harvest the crops, and improve the overall the standard of living. When this source of money is removed, however, development can slow down for lack of funds.

In Cote d’Ivoire, the increasing importance of cashew exports is undermined by rampant smuggling. A United Nations panel estimated that in 2011, 150,000 tons of cashews were smuggled from Côte d’Ivoire, a trend that is unlikely to change unless foreign purchasers of the nuts crack down on smuggling practices.

Why do Ivorian cashew farmers smuggle cashews? Farmers are often unable to find desirable export prices on raw, unprocessed cashews, and instead sell to neighboring Ghana. Cashews are usually smuggled alongside cocoa, cotton, and coffee on an elaborate smuggling route through the northern and southern borders.

The export loss is staggering. The U.N. estimated that in 2011 alone Côte d’Ivoire lost US $130 million from its national economy and $3 million in fiscal revenue. The U.N. Panel asserted that the money gained from smuggling practices may be used by groups to purchase weaponry illegally, and stated that it was aware that the smuggling of cocoa to Ghana was in a number of cases escorted directly by Ivorian military forces.

Economists pinpoint the reason for low export prices as the low processing capacity for the six main nut processing factories. Less than one percent of the country’s cashews are processed, meaning shelled and sometimes roasted, in-country. Raw cashews net a lower market price. When farmers are unable to legally export their crop for the price they want, they turn to buyers in Ghana. Ultimately, this practice widens the funding gap for Ivorian infrastructure and development projects, growing obstacles to a more stable economy. Ultimately, for this country plagued with political instability and an unstable economy, the revenue created by legal cashew exports could help the country address its biggest challenges.

– Naomi Doraisamy

Source: African Development Bank Group, IRIN News, IRIN News
Photo: Jerry’s Nut House

Oxfam Fair Trade
Coffee is the second most-traded commodity and one of the most consumed drinks around the world. The consumption of coffee is a universal business within its own, for its demand is incredibly high worldwide. Drinking coffee has become almost second nature to many who can afford it. American author and journalist, Sarah Vowell, says that she realized that drinking a mocha, although seemingly trivial, was in fact “to gulp down the entire history of the New World.” She continues on to say that the modern mocha is nothing less than a “bittersweet concoction of imperialism, genocide, invention, and consumerism served with whipped cream on top.”

Taken into consideration how big of a role coffee plays in people’s lives today, one would think that people would know where their coffee was coming from and what kind of conditions it was produced in. However, the truth is to the contrary because many people have no idea what conditions coffee producers undergo. Approximately 25 million farmers depend on coffee production/sales to make their living, and many of them live in poverty. The coffee market is prone to severe fluctuations due to changes in climate which in turn affect the growth patterns of coffee plants. Due to the longevity of the growth of coffee plants, producers cannot react quickly to changes in coffee demand. Thus, this is where smart consumers can help poor people, and in particular, coffee producers.

As smart informed consumers, people can buy certified fair trade coffee which basically means that farmers and coffee producers are paid a fair and stable price regardless of changing conditions. A recent Oxfam Australia survey reports that more than 85% of consumers want more fair trade products in their supermarkets, and 60% believe that their consumer decisions can make a difference in the lives of producers and farmers in less-developed countries. Marcial Valladolid, from CACVRA, which is a small producer organization in Peru, expressed how coffee cultivation used to disappoint him because the money he made was not remotely close to cover the cost of his coffee production. CACVRA uses its fair trade premium to “support and improve organic cultivation and certification.” By joining this cooperative, Marcel is content that he was able to receive some profit, and he is hopeful for a future with more fair trade.

It is no wonder that coffee was once described by Neil Gaiman as “sweet as sin,” taking into account all the producers and farmers horribly affected by our enjoyment of their produce. Majority of coffee producers live in developing countries including Brazil, Colombia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Ethiopia, and Mexico. Luckily, our enjoyment can come as a better price as the conditions can change because certified fair trade products are becoming increasingly available and accessible through independent grocers, major supermarkets, and retail stores. Thus, making the switch to becoming a smart consumer could not be any easier today. Make the switch today and change people’s lives.

– Leen Abdallah

Sources: AU News, Good Reads
Photo: Google, Google

Apple-CEO-Tim-Cook
Want to enjoy a cup of coffee with Apple CEO Tim Cook? As of now it will cost you over $210,000. Cook has volunteered, through the online-auction site Charity Buzz, to share up to an hour of his precious time with two lucky (and deep-pocketed) winners. Proceeds from the auction will go to The RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights, an international nonprofit founded as a memorial to Robert F. Kennedy by his family and friends.

In the auction’s first day, Cook received 52 bids, starting at $5,000 and spiraling upward quickly. The leading bid Thursday evening was $210,000, and there are still 19 days to go until bidding closes on May 14.

The coffee chat will happen at Apple’s Cupertino, California, headquarters. The winner may bring along one guest.

The move fits in with the more open public persona Cook has adopted since replacing late Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs. One of the knocks on Jobs was that he never contributed much of his considerable fortune, or celebrity, to charity — at least not in the public ways other tech titans like Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg have. Not only does this coffee date allow two lucky Apple fans to live their dream, a great PR move, but it contributes to society as well, a greater PR move.

Other celebs taking part in the auction for the RFK Center include Robert DeNiro, Alex Trebek, Carrie Underwood, Peyton Manning, William Shatner, and David Letterman.

Katie Brockman

Source CNN
Photo Apple

Growth of Sustainable Coffee and Global Poverty Reduction
In both unexpected and unprecedented turn of events, 2012 saw a huge increase in the amount of growth of sustainable coffee imported from developing nations. Sales of the environmentally friendly Rainforest Alliance certified coffee jumped from 3.3 percent global output in 2011 to an astounding 4.5 percent in 2012, and imports of the certified coffee jumped 18 percent in the United States and Canada; effectively shifting the paradigm of business efficacy in regards to the future of sustainably sourced products.

The increase in 2012 sales is thanks in part to the efforts of Rainforest Alliance and Fair-Trade USA, two US-based non-profits that work to both train and certify overseas growers in techniques that encourage sustainable farming practices. These two non-profits have also sought to change public demands for products that promote responsible environmental stewardship abroad. Surprisingly, the growth of sustainable coffee has been bolstered primarily by its sales to US-based fast food companies such as Caribou Coffee Co. and McDonald’s USA, which recently shifted 100 percent of their espresso coffee beans to be sourced from Rainforest Alliance certified coffee growers.

In regards to the huge growth of sustainable coffee, Rainforest Alliance’s press release remarked that “Over 118,000 coffee farms covering almost 800,000 acres (323,500 hectares) are now Rainforest Alliance Certified and meet rigorous standards for best practices and environmental and social sustainability.”

By empowering farmers in developing nations to produce crops using environmentally sustainable methods such as those utilized by Rainforest Alliance certified coffee growers, American consumers can – through their purchasing power – effectively mitigate the systemic global poverty afflicting many South American countries. Furthermore, as the growth of sustainable coffee provides increased economic incentives for many residents of the global south, global poverty levels will continue to contract as certified coffee sales expand.

Brian Turner

Source: Chicago Tribune
Photo: Select Drinks

Fair Trade Chocolate
Chocolate, called “xocoatl” by the Aztecs hundreds of years ago, has historically been a staple in life to many millions of people.

Cacao concoctions were drunk by Mayan royalty, lauded as a gift from the gods, and was even used as currency by the Aztecs as early as the 1500s.

Today’s chocolate is also worth a lot of money. Recent estimates of chocolate consumption patterns around the week of Valentine’s Day say that “consumers will buy more than 58 million pounds of chocolate candy, raking in $345 million in sales and accounting for 5.1 percent of total annual sales” in the United States alone, reports Sylvia Camaj of PolicyMic.

The history of chocolate has also always included a dark side, however.

Scholars know that Mayan and Aztec rituals regarded cacao beans as an essential element in some capacity; whether the ritual was religious, concerned life or death, did or did not involve the sacrifice of human life – cacao was seen as a representation of divinity.

Today’s dark side of chocolate stems primarily from the statistic that 40 percent of the world’s cocoa, produced for major companies such as Hershey, Nestle, Mars, Kraft and Dove, comes from plantations in Africa’s Ivory Coast and Ghana, and is responsible for the trafficking of an estimated 109,000 children, says the State Department. The children suffer terrible abuse for their work, beating beaten and forced to work long hours while being exposed to dangerous and stunting pesticides and equipment.

However, smart and dedicated consumers are demanding change from these multi-national companies, and the companies are responding. When Cadbury was bought by Kraft in 2010, Kraft promised “to honor Cadbury’s commitment to Fair Trade cocoa sourcing. Nestle has also committed to buying chocolate that meets international labor rights standards.” Hershey has made similar commitments, although the company still has much work to do regarding their Fair Trade labor practices.

Consumers pressuring companies into morally correct business practices is a healthy, growing global trend that must receive continued attention and support from the international community. A commitment to Fair Trade products helps companies achieve a better moral standing with consumers. They can then be seen as more credible producers.

An example of a global company adopting Fair Trade production is Starbucks, a global giant in coffee that has committed to streamlining several of their beans purely from Fair Trade sources.

Learn more about Fair Trade from Oxfam International.

– Nina Narang

Sources: PolicyMic, Smithsonian
Photo: Urban Earthworm