You are asked to write a review of:
Luttinger, N. & Dicum, G. (2006) The Coffee Book New Press (2nd ed.)
- You were asked, to prepare your responses to three questions regarding the book. The three questions were:
a) How has the current production of coffee developed historically? (rough guide – 300 words)
b) What market structures can we see as coffee makes it way from ‘crop to the last drop’? (rough guide 500 words)
c) Who should our ‘coffee dollars’ go to? (rough guide – 200 words)
You should write these before you sit down to write the final review. You will have gone over each section in class and should use the advice given to help you write the answers to these three questions.
- The final review is more than the sum of these three parts. In the allotted word count you need:
- To comment on the overall purpose of the book and for this you should read the Preface pp ix – xiii.
- To take the reader through the main elements of the book by using the three questions above in section (1) of this paper.
- To state overall what the reader can learn from the book
- The word limits for each question give a strong indication of the importance the markers will attach to the detail you provide on each of those topics. You can guess from the emphasis of our work this term that grasping the implications of market structure for pricing is very important. You need to indicate a good understanding of the five main types of market structure we have looked and what happens for instance to negotiation over price when we see small scale farmers meeting the oligopsony of the roasters and traders.
- The key sections of the book relevant to the first of the three questions is chapter 1. However, the travails of the coffee farmers today very much date from the collapse of the International Coffee Agreement (ICA). The lecture on government intervention on prices given on the 10th December includes some diagrams to explain how the ICA worked to maintain prices for farmers. In the book pp. 86-95 are the crucial part and the later pages show what happened to coffee prices after the agreement ended in 1989. So you may need to amend what you wrote for question 1 earlier in the term to include a reference to the ICA.
- The key sections of the book relevant to the second of the three questions are chapter 2 and from p.108 of chapter 3 and the details on the mega roaster in the margins of chapter 4 pages 133-6 and 142-144. Other parts of that chapter may help.
The easiest way to tackle this question on market structure is to describe the market structure at each stage of coffee production so that you cover: small farmers (with a mention of the larger scale Brazilian estates), traders, roasters and retailers. Here you could use your research on prices charged in supermarkets.
- For question c) I hope that your tutor pointed out that this question is a ‘normative’ economics question – that is it asks what should happen or whether a result or policy is fair. This is distinct from a ‘positive’ approach which analyses what is – and does not take a moral or prescriptive stand (at least not openly). For question c) therefore you need to explain where the coffee dollars actually go and comment on the fairness or possible adverse outcomes of this situation.
Page 74 shows that coffee prices are highly volatile. Pages 108-120 of chapter 3 demonstrate where the coffee dollar actually goes in this very volatile market. These are key sections to read.
However, saying what is happening is not the end of the question – where should the coffee dollar go? Here the final chapters are relevant discussing in particular the rise of fair trade. The film ‘Black Gold’ demonstrates other ways of getting round the power of the mega roasters. You will find also discussions of this problem in other readings provided with the outline of the assignment on Moodle.
- And don’t forget what I say in point (2) above – the review is more than the sum of the three questions we have looked at during the term.
- I realise that the word count is very tight. Looking carefully at how you write and making sure that every sentence counts is an important skill to develop. You have plenty of material, the trick is going to be to summarise it. You may use charts and diagrams and these may help you to summarise data.
- The following additional readings are also useful and you should look at them as well – extra marks are awarded for the extent of reading displayed.
- Dicken, P. (2007) Global Shift chapter 12 on the agro-food industries.
Talbot, J. (2004) Grounds for Agreement Oxford: Roman and Littlefield ch 7 ‘Where does your coffee dollar go?’.
Talbot, J. (1997) “Where does your coffee dollar go? The division of income and surplus along the coffee commodity chain” Studies in Comparative International