The cooperative Asociación Agropecuaria El Carmen de Acevedo represents around 350 smallholder farmers in the hills surrounding El Carmen de Acevedo. Our importing partner, Raw Material, met with the cooperative members in 2017 to understand what was preventing them from accessing the speciality coffee market.
Despite good levels of production, income from coffee had dropped to unsustainable levels over the previous few years, and the smallholder families were faced with the prospect of having to find alternative income outside of coffee. The volatility of the commodity coffee market prohibited farmers from investing in the infrastructure improvements required to improve the quality of their coffee. Raw Material also noticed a huge gap between the way coffee quality is evaluated at farm level compared with at the roasting end of the value chain.
On the back of these meetings Raw Material launched the Red Associations, with the goal of achieving stable and sustainable prices for the cooperative’s lots through improved quality-control, knowledge-sharing, and a connection to the specialty coffee market. The cooperative now offers extra drying tables to allow the farmers to dry the coffee themselves as opposed to selling them to local intermediaries at a cheap price. There is also a lab where the farmers can get real time feedback on the quality of their coffee.
With the new infrastructure in place, Raw Material is able to offer a minimum fixed price of 1 million Colombian Pesos per carga of dry parchment coffee. This represents double the household income of the typical coffee producing family in the region, compared with the average income from the regular coffee market over the past five years. On top of this they receive a second payment from Raw Material once the coffee is sold for export.
The hope is that this system of guaranteed payment on the day the coffee is delivered (as opposed to waiting on credit terms or payment on export only), plus the possibility of a top-up payment on export, will give the farmers a sustainable income, and the confidence and certainty required to invest in improving the quality of their coffee.
The community lot produced by the cooperative is one of the mainstays of our offering in the form of Mountain Rescue. The coffee is already delicious, and with improvements being made year on year, we look forward to seeing how this continues to manifest itself in the cup.