Coffee companies doing little to help struggling farmers

"These companies continue to make massive profits while coffee farmers get poorer and poorer," says Phil Bloomer, Make Trade Fair campaign director of international agency Oxfam. "The coffee-based economies of entire countries are now near collapse. More and more growers, with few alternatives, are turning to drug crops or are facing personal ruin. MMillions of women are unable to support themselves or their families."

Oxfam has analyzed what the "Big Four" coffee roasters have done in 12 months to help solve the global coffee crisis. Taking four key issues, and rating the companies out of 100, Oxfam scores It rates none of them above "failure". Two companies in particular appear not to be taking seriously the human crisis in their supply chain.

Sara Lee - at 27% - performed abysmally. The company did little to pay coffee farmers better prices, or establish guidelines for buying coffee, or help farmers diversify into other crops.

Kraft (38%) performed poorly too, having failed in the past year to buy either Fair Trade coffee or coffee that meets internationally agreed quality standards. The company did however contribute to social development programs around the world.

Nestle fared marginally better, at 43%, having led the industry in various international meetings and supported the efforts of the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) to solve the crisis, including buying directly from farmers. But Nestle still refuses to buy Fair Trade coffee.

Procter and Gamble (49%) led the industry in paying farmers a decent price and had also helped lobby the US to rejoin the ICO. However, it had too few guidelines on buying coffee that would ensure at least basic standards for farmers.

Despite the crisis in coffee, all the companies continue to make huge profits. Kraft net profit was $810m in the nine months to September; Nestle $2b in the six months to June and Sara Lee $1.4b in the 12 months to June. Procteor & Gamble's snacks and beverage division - which includes its flagship coffee brand Folgers - sold $896m worth of product (up 9% on last year) in the three months to September.