Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Coffee a Harbinger?

"Pretty soon the coffee machine will be cheaper than the coffee that goes into it."  We all know food prices are rising; the result of too many people, depleted soils, a decreasing agricultural land base, expensive fertilizer, desertification, etc.  But when we needed a new coffee machine recently, it was still a shock that the basic no-frills Black & Decker could be had for $19.95 and the 1 kg can of Tim Horton's ground coffee that went in it bought the same day at the same store was $16.95.  (Obviously, we weren't worried about whether the bean brewster had a matte finish, digital timer, Intel CPU, whitewall tires or satellite radio - we just wanted something faster than the embarrassingly slow Paleolithic machine we were slave to on New Year's Day, to the great consternation of those assembled in need of their daily hit.)  Mind you, as an aside I think there is more metal in the 1 kg can than in the whole of the new coffeemaker.  Of course, on the commodity side of the equation, caffeine is addictive so basically its suppliers can charge whatever they want if the conditions are right.  (I used to have a receptionist who drank 6 pots a day all by herself - when she wasn't at the front desk she was either in the coffee room getting a refill - or in the loo recycling Nabob.)  Thank Buddha for capitalism, eh Loofy?  Apparently competition is the only thing keeping java prices from going through the roof.  (And it's also why, on the manufacturing side of the equation, the B&D is made only of plastic - and only in China - these days.)  However, ya still gotta wonder how a machine can be produced (almost) as cheaply as the food (sort of) that goes in it.  A harbinger of things to come?