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z0mbie
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z0mbie
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Posted Sat Feb 1, 2014, 6:29am
Subject: What the growers really think...
 

Hi guys..

I found that in the last several months perusing this great forum (and others), trade topics are rarely discussed.

So in the spirit of a "state of the union" kind of discussion I created this thread.


I have done searches to prime myself for this discussion and in all that, I have really just one this one question--  I'd like to hear what growers really think of their trade organizations.   I doubt we'll ever know given their fears of disrupting their relationships with their buyers.

Coffee, being the world's second largest export, is an extremely big business.  Lots of competition..   As a capitalists, Americans desire competition as a means for driving prices down for the consumer, but to drive innovation as well. It's a wonderful concept for the first world.  But in third world markets, I have no doubt of the ruthlessness that goes on outside the view of the American consumer.

Trade organizations have sprung up to help Americans sort out this "mess", to understand what they are buying, but they have become messes themselves.  I learned that Fairtrade USA now exists as a completely independent entity from Fairtrade International..It's hard to tell why this happened?  I'm inclined to think it was to take back control over price negotiations (given our histories and philosophies about free economy). In more obvious terms, to lower our prices, increase their margins.

Anyway, I, as a coffee enthusiast, care greatly about the farmers that produce this wonderful "spice"of life.   Coffee is a huge hobby for many of us.  We don't spend thousands of dollars to make coffee so we can save money at  coffee shops..  It's more about accessibility to have the best coffee at your disposal and more so, putting the coffee making into your own hands.. A very satisfying endeavor.    A pound of coffee that typically lasts us entire week or longer is hardly an expensive thing for most of us coffee hobbyists.    As a "wealthy American" (by wealthy I don't mean to say I'm actually wealthy, just someone with enough disposable income to play with expensive coffee machines), the extra buck or two would have little impact on my life, but would be very significant to the farmer... And I'm willing to pay it, *if* it actually makes it to the farmer.

The only way I'd know this is by hearing what the growers really think.  Which coffee should we buy?  

Certification programs seem to start out with good intentions but at the end of they day I feel they are just be yet another middle man..

Intelligentsia has their own direct trade program, as does counter culture.  Are these just ploys to skirt fair trade practices.  Are they actually better programs for the farmers?

So yeah, what the growers really think is what I'd like to know.
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BonsaiDoug
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Posted Sat Feb 1, 2014, 7:44am
Subject: Re: What the growers really think...
 

z0mbie Said:

Intelligentsia has their own direct trade program, as does counter culture.  Are these just ploys to skirt fair trade practices.  Are they actually better programs for the farmers?

Posted February 1, 2014 link

I can speak to this, but only a bit.  My son coordinates all green coffee purchases for Intelligentsia,
and is a buyer for Costa Rica.  He just returned from a buying trip to Costa Rica, and from the photos
I've seen, and in speaking with him, the farmers and the Coopedota Costa Rica are quite happy with their
relationship with Intelligentsia - the owner, the farmers and even the pickers.  The facilities at Coopedota Costa Rica
are huge, modern and very well maintained.

From the little I know, it sure looks like the direct trade is a big success for all involved; at least with Intelligentsia and
the farms/co-ops they deal with.
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z0mbie
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Posted Sat Feb 1, 2014, 10:27am
Subject: Re: What the growers really think...
 

I wrote, "I doubt we'll ever know given their fears of disrupting their relationships with their buyers".

I don't think you can not dissolve politics in business partnerships.  When VPs arrive at satellite offices of any company, workers are asked to dress up, behave, etc etc etc.   Even more so with trade interactions.  The larger the buyer, the more they're feared and able to leverage their weight around.  

For example, my wife used to work for JFC International (a Japanese food importer) and many of the rank and file do not like the CEO.  When he comes over, they are asked to treat him literally like an Emperor (it's a cultural thing). And an example of that visitor being a buyer--When Walmart comes, they roll out the red carpet.  In fact Walmart is such the bully that they even require that JFC to send workers (JFC sends salesmen) to stock the shelves during after hours.  It's ridiculous.

Nevertheless I do appreciate the insight your son has with Intelligentsia's Direct trade program, and I hope the interactions he experienced are genuine.

I think the only true way to know is if farmers (and their workers) are able to express freely without fear of repercussion.  That would been anonymity of the farmer as well as the buyers they are talking about (if they are the primary seller).
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BonsaiDoug
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Posted Sat Feb 1, 2014, 3:28pm
Subject: Re: What the growers really think...
 

z0mbie Said:

I think the only true way to know is if farmers (and their workers) are able to express freely without fear of repercussion.  That would been anonymity of the farmer as well as the buyers they are talking about (if they are the primary seller).

Posted February 1, 2014 link

You may very well be correct, but I kinda doubt you'll find any posting here on the forum.  Wouldn't you expect all info to be 2nd and 3rd hand?
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DavecUK
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Posted Sat Feb 1, 2014, 6:54pm
Subject: Re: What the growers really think...
 

The relationship will be the same as all other 3rd world commodity relationships with large powerful buyers.
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boar_d_laze
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Posted Sat Feb 1, 2014, 7:31pm
Subject: Re: What the growers really think...
 

DavecUK Said:

The relationship will be the same as all other 3rd world commodity relationships with large powerful buyers.

Posted February 1, 2014 link

+1 with my pessimistic, cynical brother.

Also, let's not forget that buyers aren't the only party which exploits the economic "partnership."  Even though they may toil in the same fields, owners and peasants seldom eat from the same bowl.

BDL
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z0mbie
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Posted Sat Feb 1, 2014, 9:33pm
Subject: Re: What the growers really think...
 

boar_d_laze Said:

+1 with my pessimistic, cynical brother.

Also, let's not forget that buyers aren't the only party which exploits the economic "partnership."  Even though they may toil in the same fields, owners and peasants seldom eat from the same bowl.

BDL

Posted February 1, 2014 link

Very good point..

Right now I'm reading about organizations like Thrive Farmers Coffee and CoffeeCSA.org that are working to connect trade directly between consumers and growers .. Technically Thrive is a middle man but they split the earnings per pound after it has been sold and packaged so farmers in their coop end up getting much more of the money made from the coffee. CoffeeCSA on the is a farmer governed coop that sells directly to consumers.
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GVDub
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Posted Sun Feb 2, 2014, 9:16am
Subject: Re: What the growers really think...
 

If you're ever at Jones Coffee in Pasadena and have to opportunity to talk with Chuck Jones about this, make sure you've got some time, but he's got some excellent insights, as his family has owned a coffee plantation in Central America (Nicaragua, I think, but don't quote me) for several generations, and his grandfather used to work with Alfred Peet. Chuck is all about trying to educate and advance the local population who work on his family's farm, has set up a system to try and keep multiple generations there from being caught in the cycle of low-paid, back-breaking work. I believe he takes special care in sourcing his coffee for the roastery, as he know the business from both sides and feels a big responsibility towards the workers and the small growers.

I very much like the direct trade model, and hate the mockery of it that "Fair Trade" has become. As someone who grew up on a relatively small-scale poultry farm in upstate New York and saw what my dad, who was also committed to helping his farm workers get ahead, had to go through to try and make things work against the increasing wave of factory farming and corporate approaches to agriculture, I also try and be responsible in my selection of greens, in the extremely small scale that I can touch.
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CoffeeLoversMag
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Posted Thu Feb 6, 2014, 12:19am
Subject: Re: What the growers really think...
 

I understand that coffee business is doing pretty good but you know who really get the great advantage? I think it is the middlemen. Fair trade practice is for the benefit supposedly to coffee farmers but we canít avoid these middlemen who can still penetrate to mingle in the coffee business. Coffee growers know what is going on in coffee industry but nothing to do more except just gazing at those who are in the higher echelon in coffee industry.

 
Did you know...? Dark roast coffees actually have less caffeine than lighter roasts due to the fact that the process of roasting burns off caffeine.
www.coffeeloversmag.com/theMagazine
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