Colombia Part 3
Meet Eugenia, the woman in the red shirt. Eugenia is a manager of CAFEXCOOP, the organization in charge of managing coffee exportation from Colombia. Once farmers finish processing a crop, they have two possible ways to sell their coffee. The first option is to sell their coffee on the street, to local vendors. This is the easiest option, but typically results in the farmers making less money than their coffee is worth. The better option for farmers who are dedicated to making a great crop of coffee is to take their green beans to one of the many coffee warehouses set up throughout the region. On our third day with Jesus, we were able to visit one of these warehouses and really see how the process works.
CAFEXCOOP requires the coffee be of a certain grade before it can be exported. Anything below that grade is sold locally, and the farmers won’t make as much money. The farmers, together with CAFEXCOOP wanted to come up with a system that will help them each make the most money possible for their crop. So they set up a warehouse system that works as a national middleman for exportable coffee.
When the farmers feel they are ready, they take their bags of green beans to the warehouse. The warehouse runs a series of tests to see what quality the beans will be, based on CAFEXCOOP’s standards, and buys the green beans from the farmers right then and there, regardless of whether or not they have an external buyer. The higher quality the beans are, the more the farmers get paid. Then, the beans are stored in the warehouse until they have been purchased. At that point, they are processed, bagged and sold.
If the warehouse employees believe that a particular farmer’s coffee is of a high enough quality to sell as a microlot, then they keep that farm’s coffees aside from the rest, and attempt to sell the microlot at the highest rate they can. Any extra money that is made above what the farmer was paid is sent to the farmer once the coffee is sold. The whole process insures that the farmers will make some money off of their coffee, regardless of whether or not it sells to a roaster, and that if the farmers can sell their coffee at an even higher price, they will benefit from that sale.
As the coffee is being tested for quality, the farmers are informed of what they can do to improve their crop for the next harvest, helping them learn how they can make more money.
Even then, the coffee is not finished being checked. Following the warehouse check, the coffee is processed, a small batch is roasted, and the coffee is cupped. There are also chemical tests run on the coffee to verify that the coffee is 100% Colombian and not mixed with imports from other countries or coffee beans of lesser quality. Once approved, the green beans are bagged and sent to export. There are two ports that leave Colombia and only a few international airports. At each, there is a government employee who checks the coffee again to re-verify that nothing has changed since the first time the coffee was approved. If the coffee doesn’t pass, it isn’t exported and the farmer is allowed to come pick up the coffee and resell it at his discretion. If it does pass, then the coffee is exported, and the additional profits are sent to the farmer.
CAFEXCOOP does a lot to help farmers improve their products and sell their coffee, not only in the exporting process. In our next Colombia blog, we'll talk about the scientific projects they are working on to help farmers grow healthier, organic, sustainable beans!Coffee Adventures