Over the the past few months, I have found myself talking with a broad range of stakeholders in the specialty coffee industry about how coffee companies are investing at origin. Here are some reflections on what I am hearing in those discussions and seeing in the field, and some ideas about the directions in which industry engagement in the coffeelands may be moving.
We have partnering with CIAT (the International Center for Tropical Agriculture) to implement a climate change adaptation project with funding from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Coffee Under Pressure: Climate Change and Adaptation in Mesoamerica (or CUP for short) is helping farmers assess their own vulnerability to climate change and adapt to changing conditions on the ground. We also hope this modest project can show a way forward in the ongoing search for cost-effective, scalable ways to bring actionable climate change research to smallholder farmers.
I met at SCAA with Thanksgiving Coffee President Ben Corey-Moran, who explained that the company will be focusing more moving forward on its “core business model.” As it turns out, his concept of the company’s core business model includes innovative partnerships with NGOs in East Africa to create incentives for effective climate change mitigation and adaptation. It seems the concept of the “core business model” in the coffee industry may be evolving.
When I recently tried to summarize SCAA for CRS staff and partners in the coffeelands, I realized just what a circus SCAA really is! That’s why we asked our CAFE Livelihoods partner Cooperative Coffees to help us create a farmer’s guide to the event.
Many of the threats to the sustainable coffee enterprise arise from beyond the coffee chain itself. Some of these threats, like climate change, are new. Others, like hunger in the coffeelands, are not. In all cases, they require a new kind of engagment and new investments at origin to create a truly sustainable trade in coffee.
I made the long trip today from the coffeelands to SCAA, but I was far from the only one. Thousands of people connected in one way or another to the coffee trade — from farmers to financial services providers, brokers to baristas and syrup manufacturers to supply chain consultants — continued to trickle into Anaheim.
From 12-14 April, my colleagues at CRS West in California will be hosting Rigoberto Contreras Díaz, a smallholder coffee farmer and representative of the Yeni Navan/MICHIZA association in Oaxaca, Mexico. Rigo will be traveling throughout Southern California for a few days in advance of next week’s SCAA Expo and sharing his perspectives on coffee, Fair […]
Getting great coffee to market might seem like a simple proposal. Farmers grow the coffee, we drink the coffee, and diverse actors in between perform specialized tasks that add value to the product – tasks for which they are rewarded with a share of what we pay for the coffee. In the case of coffees of extraordinary quality, the rewards to farmers and roasters – and prices for us as consumers – should be a bit higher, creating incentives all along the line for increased investment in improved quality. At least, that is the way it should be. But in Guatemala, that logic seems to be breaking down.
In a recent episode of Mad Money, hyper-caffeinated host Jim Cramer said GMCR stock, which has already risen over the past year from around $30 a share to nearly $100, is positioned to go even higher. “It is a fabulous business model,” Cramer said. I agree. But chances are we are not using the same measuring stick.
I have been closely watching the way coffee companies engage in the coffeelands over the past five years or so. Most fit neatly under one of the “3Ps” of coffee philanthropy: public relations, process and product improvements, and people-centered investment. (OK, really there are 4Ps.)