• A
  • A
  • A
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
Regular version of the site
For visually-impairedUser profile (HSE staff only)SearchMenu

The Coffee Industry In A World-Systems Analysis: An Import-Export Model

Student: Simon Mhlbauer

Supervisor: Vera Ageeva

Faculty: Saint-Petersburg School of Social Sciences and Area Studies

Educational Programme: Political Science and World Politics (Bachelor)

Year of Graduation: 2021

Today, European coffee exports are generating the highest revenues among all coffee exporting regions, even outperforming all of Latin America (without Mexico) by 5%. This paper analyses the structure of the global coffee industry to explain how countries that do not produce a single coffee bean are ranked side by side with large scale coffee producers such as Brazil and Vietnam in terms of export quantity and outperform them in terms of money value. By using World-System Analysis as a tool, it is possible to study and explain the structure of the global coffee industry as part of the World Economy. Within the coffee industry, as within the World Economy, countries can be divided into three groups: 1) periphery countries, 2) semi-periphery countries, and 3) core-countries. The former engages in manual production processes in demand for cheap labour, leading to many participants and therefore low prices. The latter engages in technologically advanced production processes, allowing economies of scale and quasi-monopolistic structures, which lead to higher prices. Semi-periphery countries are somewhere in-between, where they perform periphery-like production processes for the core-countries, and core-like production processes for the periphery. Within the coffee industry, periphery and semi-periphery countries engage in the production of raw coffee beans. Spread over three continents and 55 countries there exist an estimate of 12 million coffee farms, engaging in the mostly manual production of coffee. On the contrary, centralized to 34 countries from Europe and North America, there exist only a few dozen major coffee roasters, with the largest ten controlling 35% of production. The respective bargaining strengths of these groups differs heavily and leads to a dependency relation and an unequal exchange. As illustrated through a case study of the import-export relations between Germany, the largest exporter (in quantity) of roasted coffee, and Brazil, the largest exporter (in quantity) of not roasted coffee, this dependency is a consequence of the working mechanisms of the World System, in which quasi-monopolistic industries -here the coffee roasters- use their political influence over the core-countries’ governments to maintain the status quo, e.g. by establishing favourable market conditions through tariffs, economies of scale, etc. By analysing Brazil, a semi-peripheral country, it is possible to further illustrate the transfer of industries, such as the coffee roasting industry, from core-countries to semi-periphery countries and ultimately to periphery countries; following growing consumer interest first in the semi-periphery, then the periphery and clear economic incentives to engage in the industry. Finally, this paper explores how the global coffee industry, similar to the World Economy, is reaching its limits through the increasing costs of inputs and decreasing sources of cheap labour leading to turmoil such as the Global Coffee Crisis of the early 2000s.

Student Theses at HSE must be completed in accordance with the University Rules and regulations specified by each educational programme.

Summaries of all theses must be published and made freely available on the HSE website.

The full text of a thesis can be published in open access on the HSE website only if the authoring student (copyright holder) agrees, or, if the thesis was written by a team of students, if all the co-authors (copyright holders) agree. After a thesis is published on the HSE website, it obtains the status of an online publication.

Student theses are objects of copyright and their use is subject to limitations in accordance with the Russian Federation’s law on intellectual property.

In the event that a thesis is quoted or otherwise used, reference to the author’s name and the source of quotation is required.

Search all student theses