Barista Magazine

OCT-NOV 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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COLOMBIAN COFFEE FARMERS AIM FOR NEW HEIGHTS OF SUSTAINABILITY SUSTAINABILITY OFTEN SOUNDS LIKE a far-off goal, something to reach in the future perhaps while working through a different reality today. For coffee farmers in Colombia and their national organization, the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia (FNC), however, it's understood that investing in sustainable practices today means a better future tomorrow. To that end, several new and exciting programs are underway across the coffee-growing regions which aim to promote and implement more and better sustainable farming practices, putting the farmers' economic and environmental foundation on fi rmer ground. For example, in partnership with the global network PUR Project and the search engine Ecosia, the FNC via the Cauca Coffee Growers Committee has just embarked on an innovative effort for planting native shade trees. The project operates under the initiative "Organic Coffee for Peace" and will help coffee farmers implement organic farming practices over more than 1,200 hectares in the Cauca region. The undertaking will also help distribute and plant more than 360,000 native trees in the area. With an investment of $1.4 million USD, and the assistance of the Ecosia search engine, which helps plant native trees with every search, the trees will be distributed to farmers in the region to help with coffee agroforestry and conservation. "We are very pleased to start this project and support the Cauca Coffee Growers Committee's development strategy," says Maxime Couasse, PUR Project coordinator for Latin America. "We have many affi nities in the vision of sustainability and respect for the environment, and so we are confi dent of the results. We know that this project, in addition to contributing to profi tability, will bring benefi ts in areas such as generational integration, sustainability, and environ- mental education." A holistic approach to sustainable practices benefi ts more than just ecological sustainability. It also means creating a sustainable business model for coffee farmers so they can continue their work into the future. Other recent efforts by the FNC to promote sustainability among its members include the allocation of $14.3 million USD by the 33 coffee-farmer cooperatives in the country to social investment in the associations through the FNC's purchase guarantee. Support for for- mal and informal education, voluntary contributions for retirement, aid, insurance, health care, discounts in fertilizers, and investment in the social, production, and labor components of the sustainability premium of the Fair Trade FLO standard are the main allocation items specifi ed F O A M : N E W S + T R E N D S Fast forward to today, and Junior's Roasted Coffee is offering its fi rst bags of coffee with the acronym COPC, or Cost of Production Covered, from the farm Santo Tomás Pachuj in Atitlán, Guatemala. The acronym not only refl ects Junior's guidelines for buying green coffee, it also rep- resents an ongoing project exploring an important topic in coffee. CONVENING THE PROJECT Once Mike and Caryn decided to begin the COPC project, they knew they needed to identify supply-chain partners who would be trans- parent and open their books. While teaching at Portland's American Barista & Coffee School, Mike met Ana Cristina de Salazar (who goes by Cristy), who was about to launch the Guatemala-based importer Terra Negra Trade Company. When Mike told her about his eager- ness to launch a cost-of-production project, she took an immediate interest. "I believe in the power of transparency," Cristy says. "I also believe that in this industry, if we don't help each other in every part of the coffee chain, our businesses won't be sustainable." Cristy took on the task of helping Mike fi nd a coffee producer who was willing to be transparent with their costs and get involved in the project; she soon connected him to Santo Tomás Pachuj and its owner, Andres Fahsen. "Serendipitously, the farm had been keeping metic- ulous cost of production records year by year and plot by plot," Mike says. When Mike visited Finca Santo Tomás Pachuj in January 2017, he and Andres quickly agreed to take on the effort together—Andres was pleased at the intention of the Junior's project to expose the fi nancial realities of coffee production. "Even though many people say that the coffee grower is suffering, there are few roasters really doing something about it," Andres says. What followed was constant communication between the vari- ous parties—Junior's received samples from Pachuj, cupped them, and agreed to purchase the coffee through Terra Negra. Mike then returned to Pachuj in October 2017 to talk about the upcoming harvest and to better understand the costs associated with the farm's production so they could effectively share this information with their customers. "We went through spreadsheet after spreadsheet," Mike says, "having them explain their costs and essentially brainstorming ways to make these really daunting spreadsheets digestible." After assessing the spreadsheets, the parties determined that Santo Tomás Pachuj's cost of production was $2.87 per pound. Terra Negra paid the farm $3.25 per pound for the coffee, but at that price, Pachuj was not making any money. They were able to pay salaries and afford their inputs, but at this price, they weren't able to take farm investment and future production into consideration. Junior's paid $4 a pound for the coffee, and with that $0.75 premium—which represents the COPC listed on the bag—Pachuj was able to pay for future investments and depreciation, plus repay agricultural loans and interest. "Covering the cost of production will help us to produce the best coffees we can for this and the following years," Andres says. "This should be the main objective." COMMUNICATING COST OF PRODUCTION With the fi rst phase of this project complete, Junior's is now focused on communicating the results to its customers—particularly retail customers at Guilder—to raise awareness of coffee's economic reality. "I think we need to engage the consumer so they can relate to this issue and understand the implications of the low prices being paid to producers," Mike says. In terms of the project trajectory, Junior's is focusing on training its staff to talk to customers about cost of production, and is preparing materials to further explain the project. This will include a comic book to be released this fall that illustrates the venture and the larger issue of low coffee prices. Junior's will also release transparency reports at the end of this year detailing Pachuj's cost of production and Junior's cost of goods. In the longer term, Mike says Junior's is planning to offer all its coffees under the COPC label. He also hopes the project helps other coffee roasters see the impact of their coffee prices and make informed decisions about how much—or how little—they're paying for coffee. "We see cost of production as an ambitious but desirable guide- line," says Mike, "and we're planning to shape all our buying practices at Junior's around it." —Chris Ryan 26 barista magazine

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