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Fairtrade on the road

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Showing posts tagged “SCAE2012”

I interviewed Delmi Regalado of COCAFELOL, a cooperative in Honduras, at the SCAE Coffee Event in Vienna, Austria. We also talked at last year’s SCAE in Maastricht when her cooperative was awaiting the final decision on their certification. COCAFELOL has had a fair amount of success already and Delmi was at the SCAE to continue building up important contacts in the coffee industry

“Hola, my name is Delmi Regalado. I work with the cooperative COCAFELOL in Ocotepeque, Honduras. We work with 500 coffee producers of which 200 are also certified Fairtrade organic. This was our first year with Fairtrade certification and the truth is it has been a good experience for the producers and we are beginning with this and we sell about 20% of our coffee with the seal.

“So far the only project we have done is helping the community build a coffee cupping school for children to learn about cupping coffee. We have also helped with athletics building playing fields for sports. This is more or less what we’ve been working on.”

What was the inspiration for the cupping school?

“The inspiration was because we have seen in other countries how the coffee industry is aging. And the children in other countries, we have seen how the parents have sent them to study careers that have nothing to do with coffee. Once they grow up, they don’t have an interest in working in coffee. We hope that our children understand and [want to] do what we’re doing in cafe.”

Kyle Freund is the Interim Liaison Manager in the office of Communications at Fairtrade International. In June he attended the SCAE coffee event in Vienna, Austria, Europe’s largest specialty coffee conference mixing hundreds of producers, traders, roasters and retailers as they come together to discuss everything coffee.

El trabajo es para aprender, no para ganar.

"Work is to learn, not to win (profit)."

Ervin Calixto Miranda Gonzalez, manager of COOMPROCOM, R.L., a Fairtrade certified cooperative in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. Stated during a discussion regarding some of the other benefits of Fairtrade, such as democratic decision-making and community organizing.

Building trust

Kyle Freund is the Interim Liaison Manager in the office of Communications at Fairtrade International. He is attending the SCAE coffee event in Vienna, Austria, Europe’s largest coffee conference mixing hundreds of producers, traders, roasters and retailers as they come together to discuss everything coffee.

A lot of things came full circle yesterday at the SCAE as I watched Colin Harmon compete in the World Barista Championsip (WBC) here in Vienna – if you don’t think making coffee is that captivating, you haven’t been to a WBC. He ended an amazing performance by citing his coffee philosophy.

“I think our number one strategy should be building trust through taste.”

That moment took me back to earlier in the morning when members of the international Fairtrade system hosted a ‘Meet the Fairtrade Producers’ event. There were producers from Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, Brazil. Interested traders, roasters and retailers came by and all milled about discussing organic vs. conventional, the effects of climate change, the problems and the opportunities.

Talking with a pair of producers, I realized the importance of trust throughout the entire supply chain. Fairtrade is not just about a better price or premiums for community development; most times the most important thing is the long-term relationship that forms between a group of farmers and their buyers.

At its best, the give and take in a strong stable relationship can help both parties navigate a tricky market. One year the buyer and importer may float the cooperative extra funds or pay well above the market price to help the coffee farmers through a difficult situation. The next year, the cooperative may cut their market partners a break or deliver the highest quality beans at a lower price reserved for friends.

It all comes back to taking that step beyond price and building mutually beneficial relationships. 

Back at the barista competition, Harmon ended his presentation with a plea to taste, enjoy, and learn to trust. And be nice to people.

PS Speaking of the competition, be sure to check out the final performance by eventual winner Raul Rodas from Guatemala.

Ervin Calixto Miranda Gonzalez is the manager of COOMPROCOM, R.L., a Fairtrade certified Cooperative in Nicaragua. We met Ervin at the SCAE coffee event in Vienna where he was busy meeting with potential buyers and looking for new markets for the cooperative’s coffee.

Below is a transcript of our brief interview:

My name is Ervin Miranda, I’m the manager of COOMPROCOM, a cooperative of coffee farmers in Matagalpa, Nicaragua with 221 members – 40 of whom are women – and we are in 16 communities. Fairtrade for us has been a model for development where we have been able to transform the economic and social situation in small communities that other models cannot replicate. This has been important because it is a sustainable model and has also helped us find excellent markets for our coffee.

How have you dealt with the volatility of coffee prices?

There’s something to back us up, to know we always have the minimum price – that is very important. And the volatility, which we understand, many times we find solidarity with our market (partners). When the price is very high, it can be a problem. They have been good with us working to find a middle ground, both of us contributing.


Throughout the past year, coffee prices have been on a wild ride soaring to nearly $3 per pound last year and falling to below $1.60 one year later. While much is made of low or high prices in coffee and its impact on producers, it’s the volatility and market uncertainty that farmers often find most challenging. Fairtrade encourages long-term relationships between coffee producers and their buyers to help both weather volatile markets.

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