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Tackling a crisis for coffee

Former coffee association head tackles economic downturn facing growers


July 26, 2019
By Lori Sharn

Ric Rhinehart still had two years to go on his contract when he stepped down Jan. 1 as executive director of the Specialty Coffee Association to take on another role. Now, as executive director emeritus, Rhinehart is heading SCA’s effort to understand and address the rock-bottom prices that are devastating farmers and threatening the entire supply chain.

Green coffee beans are fetching about $1 a pound on the international commodities market, less than the cost of production for millions of small-scale farmers. It’s the latest pricing crisis for a crop prone to boom-and-bust cycles, complicated by just a few countries growing most of the world’s coffee, climate change and a host of other issues.

“It’s an existential threat to the supply chain, certainly for specialty     coffee and may well be for coffee generally,” Rhinehart said.