Saturday, February 2, 2019

90. "No Such Thing as a Commodity" Shows the Way for Producers

Feb. 1, 2019
A new report by the United Nations International Trade Commission (ITC) titled "No Such Thing as a Commodity" has an important and welcome message for producers of specialty coffee - they can overcome the volatility and low value of commodity coffee pricing. The report is also a valuable addition to the body of literature which recommends strategies to increase the value of green coffee, and thereby raise per unit prices paid to producers. The economists at ITC should be thanked for their work highlighting this topic, and timing couldn't be better.

The report boosts recognition that large commodity markets can and do already include examples of producer organizations which leverage marketing and IP strength to achieve non-commodity product attributes. These attributes include brand names, enforced IP protection and consumer recognition from skilled use of digital platforms. The report offers examples that, according to the authors, demonstrate that coffee producers who have achieved these types of marketing gains, have benefited from higher prices.  What this report does not attempt to do, is offer a 'silver bullet' solution to the tyranny of the C price. Instead, it points towards business know-how, specifically marketing strategy, as the way that producers and exporters can move away from being price-takers.  
Ruth Ann Church - observing / teaching at a washing station.

This report describes and defines the broader marketing concepts that underpin arguments and recommendations made in the paper, "Understanding and Improving the Price-Quality Relationship in Rwanda's Coffee Sector" by Ruth Ann Church, October 2018. This paper is not focused on marketing strategies like ITC's is. Instead, this report focuses on Rwanda's challenges to overcome commodity coffee mentality. Church writes a short section 4 titled, "Finding Buyers of High-Quality Coffee," which offers marketing tactics to support the efforts of producers, exporters or the government, to gain traction in high-quality coffee that is not commodity-priced.

Let us know if you've read similar recent reports! Maybe you've seen other writers or researchers substantiating how marketing strategies have helped producers be able to say that they're no longer part of a commodity market.

WATCH THIS SPACE for upcoming announcements of Artisan Coffee Import's panel at SCA Boston - "East African Quality Innovation", April 14, 11:30 - 12:30am.