Tuesday, July 10, 2018

86. Experts and Leaders agree: "No shortcut to Sustainability in Coffee"

July 10, 2018
I'm back from a 2 week trip to Rwanda related to coffee. This article that appeared earlier in the year in Daily Coffee News (by Roast Magazine) sums up much of what I have seen there: "There Is No Shortcut to Sustainable Coffee" The author, Jan von Enden, General Manager of the Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung North America, based in New York, states well what I often struggle to convey to well-meaning colleagues in the industry. He apparently gets asked one of these two questions frequently: “When you do a project, can I get exclusive access to the coffee?” and “Is it a SHG grade, certified and fully traceable?”

I get asked the supply side version of those 2 questions, but Mr. von Enden's good answers would be likewise applicable! I get asked, "I'm growing my coffee using all those best practices, where will I find the buyers willing to pay for it?" and "I want to grow a high-cup-score, fully-traceable coffee from a high elevation wet mill, do you know someone who will buy it at above $5.00/Kg green FOT Kigali?"

Mr. von Enden's wise answers, slightly paraphrased:
On finding buyers, “We encourage farmers to negotiate like true entrepreneurs — get out there and find more than one. If a buyer wants exclusivity, tell them it comes with a premium, so be willing to pay up…”

With regard to quality, we tell them, “It can take three to five years to develop a well-structured, sustainable and profitable supply chain that can deliver great coffee. Find investors who understand this and will take the time to get it right, and then we can figure out what to call the coffee, and what to charge for it over the long term.”

Artisan Coffee Imports is one of those companies that understands and is investing for the long term development of processes and human systems that can deliver high quality, despite the many and frequent obstacles to achieving that goal in a country like Rwanda.