Black Gold is an alarming and timely film about coffee and how the international trading system is killing millions of people in the poorest countries of the world.
Multinational coffee companies now rule our shopping malls and supermarkets and dominate the industry worth over $55 billion, making coffee the most valuable trading commodity in the world after oil.
But while our appetite for lattes and cappuccinos grows and the profits of the coffee multinationals continue to rise, the price paid to coffee farmers has fallen to an all time low. The livelihoods of over 25 million coffee growers have been ruined and the crisis is nowhere more devastating than in the birthplace of coffee—Ethiopia.
One determined and passionate Ethiopian man is on a mission to try and change the status quo. For Tadesse Meskela who represents over 70,000 coffee farmers, it is a race against time. With no cash to buy food or send their children to school, many farmers have abandoned their coffee fields. Some have started to grow the leafy narcotic drug Chat, whilst others have joined the queue of the seven million people now dependent on food aid from the West.
To bypass the international trading system, Tadesse leaves his home town in Ethiopia and travels to the cities of America and Europe where he sells his coffee for a better price to buyers in London and those gathered at the world’s largest coffee trade show in Seattle.
As Tadesse’s journey unfolds, so does the journey of the coffee bean and the world events taking place around him. Along the way, we meet coffee drinkers, tasting experts, baristas, company executives, and coffee traders and visit the warehouses, sweatshops, distribution centres, tasting laboratories, auction houses, and roasting plants.
Meanwhile, Ethiopian feeding camps begin to fill up with new arrivals, and the massive U.S. food aid operation in the port of Djibouti works round the clock to unload the millions of sacks of wheat destined for Ethiopia’s people.
Against this backdrop, hundreds of delegates from the poorest countries of the world descend on the paradise beach resort of Cancun in Mexico where the double dealing and dramatic events at the world trade talks begin to unfold. African trade ministers demand an end to the world trade rules that has made it the only continent in the world to get poorer over the last 20 years.
Back in Ethiopia, Tadesse is still fighting for a better deal for his farmers. But can one man alone save them from bankruptcy?
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