Government, not farmers, benefits from coffee business
By Kidist, EthioMedia | Dec 05,2006 [Commentary]
I have recently been following the news on the coffee branding war between the Ethiopian government and the US coffee giant Starbucks Corporation, which was fueled by the involvement of other third party blowers like Oxfam and may be the World bank, if not in an official capacity.
It is a paradox for me to see the Ethiopian government pursuing this law suit while it self is the one who systematically exploits the poor. The poverty stricken poor coffee farmers whom Oxfam claims to be their friend, pay taxes to sustain the life of this government, whereas others freely enjoy the cream of their labor, and still not enough, those gluttons are looking for every venue deem to generate more to fill their deep barrel.
As many studies indicate the Ethiopian coffee farmer gets 6-10% of the retail price of his/her product. Is this the fair share? Is this just? Absolutely not! Hence, any attempt to the solution of this problem would have been more benevolent and rewarding if it was played by the government of Ethiopia or the third parties whom all boast as the champions of poverty eradication. These are the key questions which need an answer, what is at stake? Who gets the lions share?
The Ethiopian people have suffered 17 years of brutal communist dictatorship before the so called EPRDF came to power, where the entire economy of the country used to be controlled from the center. Every thing from agriculture to manufacturing, construction to transportation, whole sale to retail, telecommunication to power, insurance, and etc. were under the ownership of the Derge military junta.
When the TPLF/EPRDF took power in 1991, it came with a different type of socialism, more latent, more confined and ethnocentric one, which the world had never seen before. The TPLF under the cover of free economy and privatization changed hands of ownership of most of these economic sectors to itself and its brain child the Tigray Development Agency (TDA).
Today TPLF and TDA own most, if not all, of these institutions under the name of endowments, or private enterprises and joint ventures with ghost licenses. To name the few, Guna, Dinsho, Combolcha, Sur, Wondo, and etc. are examples of the so called endowments owned by the TPLF and TDA whom all of them freely do business in the country without paying a penny tax. Here it is worth to remember the role the World Bank played in the transition by funneling funds through unsupervised projects.
Today every single sector of the country’s economy is under the monopoly of these new breeds of looters and their proxies, where a citizen does not have the freedom to create or invest the way he/she wants, and the Ethiopian coffee farmer is not an exempt.
The coffee mogul Wondo, as its predecessor the Derge’s coffee corporation did, is the one who regulates the local coffee market, buys the bean, exports it to the international demands, and collects a huge sum of profit in hard currency. Guna does the same as the sole supplier of fertilizer and pesticides to the farmer, and other sister endowments do the same respectively. Any way, no Ethiopian is out of the hook except some materially corrupted.
These facts clearly show the motives of the government, and its orchestrated efforts in the skirmish. However, it is shame full to see the blind line bakers who rally behind it and work as an accessories to mobilize the innocent. A system that does not respect the basic rights of its own people, that deprives the just and equitable share of their sweat, can’t be a partner of a fair trade. Fair trade requires free economy which in turn needs democracy, and democracy dictates basic human rights and healthy relationship of the economy as fundamentals.
Unless this chronic problem is dealt with, any effort on the part of all who wish well to the country and its people will do no better than a lip service. We should have the courage to condemn the primary cause of poverty. Respect for basic human rights comes first!