In a world were economies thrive off trade, exports are considered a key driver in generating income for countries across the world over. However, exports do not only have an impact on income but also on the culture and society of the countries in question. This is especially true for countries that export commodities that are equally produced by other countries across the world thus making such a commodity highly competitive. Therefore, for a country to survive in such a market, they must offer a better variety of the commodity in question. Driven by this need, the effect of export on culture and society is mostly seen. With this in mind, this paper seeks to highlight the effect the impact that export has on culture and society, with focus on coffee in Colombia, by brining together literature that focuses on the same topic.
Impact of Exports on Culture and Society: Coffee in Colombia
More often than not, agricultural produce is reflective of a societies culture. This is because such produce is often one that has a long-standing history of being produced by people within the country. As such, the produce becomes an identifying mark of the society and the country at large. This hold true for Colombia, which is renowned world over for its longstanding production of coffee, with the country exporting 12.72 Million bags of coffee in the period between 2017 -2018, against the world demand of 161.93 Million bags (International Coffee Organization, 2018). This represents a supply of about 12.7% of the world’s coffee and shows the importance of coffee in Colombia thus leads one to ask the question, does export of Coffee have an impact on Colombia’s culture and society?
Every day, more than 500,000 coffee growers throughout Colombia fulfill a family tradition, one that has been passed down from generation to generation. Growing premium-quality coffee beans across nearly 2.2 million acres of Colombian highlands is an important part of their heritage. For Colombians, coffee is not merely a bean, but a part of their national identity.(Wharton University, 2013)
Further, coffee growing is the largest source of rural employment in the country.() This shows that it has a greater effect on the economic livelihoods of the rural Colombian society, who from _% of the total Colombian population (). Some 95% of Colombian coffee-growing families operate on small plots of land, the average size of a coffee farm in Colombia is 1.8 hectares and only 5% of producers hold more than 5 hectares (Volcafe, 2012). This characteristic distinguishes Colombian coffee production as essentially a family-run operation, in which all the harvesting and post-harvest processing is carried out by the growers themselves.
Having realized the massive importance of coffee to the country’s economy, the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) was established in 1927. FNC’S main mission is to guide, organize, promote and regulate Colombian coffee production in order to promote farmers’ welfare through collaborative economic, scientific, technological and commercial mechanisms (FNC, 2013). The establishment of the FNC can be seen as a move taken to ensure that Colombian coffee culture is maintained at high levels within the country. In so doing, Colombia will maintain the worlds perception that it’s coffee is amongst the worlds best thereby ensuring there is a constant demand for their coffee in the worlds markets.
In a move aimed at improving coffee culture, the FNC in 1938 founded Cenicafé, its coffee research center for the development and innovation of competitive and sustainable technologies. the institution is constantly creating strategic knowledge in terms of new agricultural practices, varieties of coffee and processing technologies to increase production while respecting both the environment and the farmers involved in the coffee sector. The body of knowledge produced is then shared directly to farmers by the Extension Service, created by FNC in 1959. The service is formed by 1,669 technicians, mostly agricultural engineers, regularly visiting, assisting and communicating with all the 500,000 members of the Federation. The Extension Service’s objective is to constantly seek to improve the producer’s quality of life through the adoption of appropriate practices for coffee production, and to find ways to stimulate the relationship with coffee growers in social, infrastructure, and environmental projects that contribute to their families’ well-being (FNC, 2014).
Other than culture, the FNC sought to make coffee growing an intergenerational culture. They moved to launch a school and soffee program in 1996 that would see coffee-related topics incorporated into the curriculum of primary and secondary schools.
The income generated by this product has traditionally been considered as a source of social and economic stability for most of Colombia’s farming families. As such, the export of coffee is an important source of income distribution. And in order to safeguard these farming families diverse NGOs, multilateral banks, and organizations for international cooperation have searched for ways to create new models of commerce that guarantee minimum prices or transparent prices for many small coffee producers.
With regards to society, coffee is a beverage whose consumption is associated with social interaction, such as reunions with family and friends, it has penetrated various cultures and has become, as time goes by, an instrument to build relationships in diverse societies around the world. This shows the silent impact it has in enhancing social relations within a society. Thus one can assume that the more coffee that is exported out of Colombia, the more people will meet at coffee shops and breakfast tables to interact thus sustaining positive human relations.
As a further impact on society, Colombia currently has very small but expanding pockets of special, high-end coffee preparations. In Manizales, coffee culture is steadily growing in places like Santo Kaffetto, where visitors can experience a special coffee museum and coffee tour which explains all the different processing techniques and preparations.(Colombia Reports, 2016) This is a form of tourism which can largely be credited to the good reputation that Colombian coffee has amassed for itself across the world through its exports.
Thus far it is important to note that the impact of coffee export on the culture and society of Colombia cannot be understated. This is evident by the Colombian Governments realization of securing and advancing coffee growing in Colombia through the FNC. Further, the highly competitive market that is the world coffee industry means that coffee growing culture in Colombia must be kept at a high if they are to remain competitive in the worlds market. From a social perspective, the impact of exports largely lies in the fact that the exports provide an income to the over half a million farmers, most of whom are small scale. Therefore, there is the need to ensure that exports are maintained for the sake of their livelihoods.
Colombia Reports, The Evolution Of Coffee Culture in Colombia’s Coffee Region, Erin Donaldson,2013. Retrieved From: https://colombiareports.com/evolution-coffee-culture-colombias-coffee-region/
FNC Santander, Comité Departamental de Santander. 2013. Area cultivadas en café: situación
Departamental. Bucaramanga: Comité Departamental de Santander.
FNC Santander, Comité Departamental de Santander. 2014. www.santander.federaciondecafeteros.org. Website. Accessed November, 2019.
International Coffee Organization, Coffee Market Report . October 2018 Retrieved from: http://www.ico.org/documents/cy2018-19/cmr-1018-e.pdf
Volcafe. 2012. Origin: Colombia. Coffee Business Services & Academy, a Volcafe initiative. Issue 3, 2012.Whatron University. Coffee in Colombia: Waking Up To an Opportunity 2013 Latin Jan 02 – https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/coffee-in-colombia-waking-up-to-an-opportunity/
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