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  • Rob: Hello, I'm Rob. Welcome to 6 Minute English. With me today is Neil. Hello, Neil.

  • Neil: Hello Rob!

  • Rob: In this programme we're going to be talking about coffee.

  • Neil: Coffee? I've actually got one here in front of me, Rob.

  • Rob: What kind of coffee are you drinking?

  • Neil: It's a skinny latte. And what's that you got?

  • Rob: I've gone for a flat white today. Mmm. That tastes good.

  • Neil: Looks good too! The market for the world's

  • most popular drink has come a long way since the days of instant coffee, when we just added

  • boiling water to some brown powder.

  • Rob: Yes, that's very true, Neil. After that came

  • the giants like Starbucks and Costa Coffee who made coffee drinking trendy and a lifestyle statement.

  • People are far more aware of what they're drinking these days.

  • Neil: But Rob, I don't think we should forget what

  • lies behind the coffee we enjoy every day. It's a hugely complicated business.

  • Rob: Yes, it's the second biggest commodity in the world, after oil.

  • That means the price of coffee is changing every day, every hour even,

  • as traders speculate about the price.

  • Neil: It means farmers in countries like Ethiopia,

  • Costa Rica and Brazil are dependent on the deals that are made in commodity markets thousands of miles from their farms.

  • It makes them extremely vulnerable.

  • Rob: Let's listen to food journalist Sheila Dillon

  • as she explains the impact of coffee markets on local growers. She uses an expression that means "has a big effect".

  • Can you tell me what it is?

  • Sheila Dillon: What happens in the coffee markets makes waves around the globe.

  • Entire national economies depend on the price of coffee. It's the key

  • to whether individual farmers can provide for their families, face unemployment and

  • ultimately whether whole communities stay on the land or trek to the cities.

  • Neil: She said "makes waves". This means "have a big effect".

  • Rob: She also used the expression "provide for"

  • their families. This means the farmer's family have enough income to live comfortably.

  • Good. Right. So what about our quiz question today? Neil, do you know many cups of coffee

  • are drunk worldwide each year? Is it:

  • a) 38 billion b) 400 billion

  • c) 950 billion

  • Neil: Well, it's going to be a huge number, of course.

  • But I still think I'll go for the lowest figure, which is 38 billion.

  • Rob: Well, we'll see if you got the right answer at the end of the programme.

  • Neil: Now, the price of coffee has soaredthat

  • means gone up quicklyin recent years, Rob. Surely that's good for everyone involved

  • in the business? I believe the profit margins for coffee are among the highest in the world.

  • I can't see what all the fuss is about.

  • Rob: Well, Neil, just because the price is high,

  • it doesn't mean that everyone benefits. It all depends on how the profits are distributed.

  • You see there are countless transactions between the grower and the drinker. A grower can have

  • a really good crop, but the amount he makes stays the sameor can even fall.

  • Neil: Mmm, I see the problem. I expect most of the

  • profits go to the commodity traders and very little to the individual growers of the bean.

  • It sounds like the growers have no control. That's what happens in other agricultural sectors.

  • Rob: I'm afraid so. Of course, some people are

  • trying to distribute the profits more widely and they have been having some success.

  • Neil: Yes, I heard about some small-scale projects

  • where the company takes charge of the whole process from field to shop.

  • Rob: Yes, these organisations tend to farm organically.

  • This is very labour intensivethat means a lot of people are employedand it creates

  • a lot of jobs for people within the local community. In this way they are not victims

  • of market fluctuations. Let's listen to Leo Virmani, who runs a small plantation like

  • this in Costa Rica. What's the verb he uses for putting the coffee in a box before selling it?

  • Leo Virmani: For our plantation, the approach we have is

  • to go through every step of the way - every step of the process - so that we grow it,

  • we pick it, and we process it in the mill. Then eventually we'll roast it, we'll package it, and we'll sell it

  • as the small plantation we are. And that would allow us to stay or

  • be profitable at the end of the day.

  • Neil: So, he used the verb "package", which means

  • "put a product in a packet or box before selling" it.

  • Rob: And he said his community can stay "profitable"

  • this means they can always maintain profitsor make money.

  • Neil: Well, it's good to know that small growers

  • can live reasonably comfortably despite what the world markets are doing. The next time

  • I grab a takeaway coffee I'll try to remember all the politics involved in the production

  • process.

  • Rob: Yes, me too. So, shall we have the answer

  • to the quiz question now?

  • Neil: Yes. You asked me how many cups of coffee

  • are drunk worldwide each year ─ 38 billion, 400 billion or 950 billion.

  • And I guessed 38 billion.

  • Rob: I'm afraid you're wrongthe answer is

  • actually 400 billion.

  • Neil: That's incredible.

  • Rob: Yes, it is an extraordinary statistic. Well,

  • we're almost out of time. So, let's remind ourselves of some of the words we've said today, Neil.

  • Neil: commodity, speculate, fluctuations, vulnerable, makes waves, provides for, labour intensive ,package, profitable

  • Rob: Well, that's it for today. Do visit bbclearningenglish.com

  • to find more 6 Minute English programmes. Until next time. Goodbye!

  • Neil: Bye!

Rob: Hello, I'm Rob. Welcome to 6 Minute English. With me today is Neil. Hello, Neil.

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B1 UK TOEIC rob commodity plantation price costa

BBC 6 Minute English April 16, 2015 - The Story Behind Coffee

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    Adam Huang posted on 2015/04/18
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