Nobody enjoys paying 83% more for something than they paid for it last year. That is, unless you’re living in Zimbabwe under a 89.7 sextillion percent inflation rate. Earlier this year, the media were hot and heavy with news stories about surging coffee prices. However, some such stories are still trickling in — such as this local piece published earlier today where a number of local roasters are all but cheering the price increases: Coffee Beans at $15 a Pound OK for Some – Mission Loc@l : News From San Francisco’s Mission District.
The price of coffee has always struck a weird public nerve. So back in April, when the headlines threatened an apocalyptic future filled with fixed budgets and Folger’s crystals replacing our bags of Four Barrel, we learned that coffee prices reached a 34-year high.
This sounded alarmingly ominous — if not for the fact that this was also the equivalent of saying that coffee prices today were the same as they were in 1977. Think about it: how many things can you buy today at 1977 prices? A gallon of gas cost an average of $0.65. A 1.2-oz Hershey bar cost $0.20. You could buy a brand new BMW 320i for under $8,000.
We wish we could pay 1977 prices for a lot more things in life. So when you look at the price of coffee, the problem hasn’t been that the prices are far too high. The problem is that coffee prices have been so depressed for so long that we’ve had to come up with Hail-Mary passes like Fair Trade just to desperately try to keep coffee farmers solvent — still dirt poor, but at least not losing net money with every harvest. The article cited above quotes a few area roasters noting how economically unsustainable the coffee market has been for so many years.
It may hurt a little more to pay for good coffee when compared to last year. But this is perhaps the first time in a long, long time that coffee prices are about at what coffee should really cost. At least to support an economically viable and sustainable market for the good stuff.
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