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Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers prepares Latin American coffee growers for New FDA ‘Bioterrorism’ Food Regulations with training seminar in Mexico.
Portland-based coffee firm ensures its supply of specialty organic
coffee bean shipments will continue arriving to the U.S.A.
OAXACA CITY, MEXICO - At a special training session held in October at its offices in Oaxaca, Mexico, Portland, Ore.-based Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers prepared small-scale organic and fair trade coffee suppliers for the FDA Bioterrorism Act, which comes into effect Dec 12, 2003.
Sustainable Harvest President David Griswold addressed the gathering of about 100 small-scale coffee cooperative suppliers from organic farms in Peru, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Mexico at a two-day training session in Oaxaca City. The purpose was to instruct Sustainable Harvest’s Latin American coffee growers and exporters in the new regulations which now govern all food and beverage imports into the USA, and to help them prepare their facilities for compliance with the FDA laws.
Reuters and Mexican newspaper reporters covered the event, as it was one of the first private-sector coffee efforts to help independent cooperatives and coffee exporters understand the challenging new FDA import rules. (See attached FDA Bioterrorism Act Overview.)
“The soon-to-be-implemented Homeland Security rules for food imports, called the Bioterrorism Act of 2002, are completely new rules of importation for food suppliers who export products to the United States,” says Griswold, who is also President of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, the world’s largest coffee trade organization.
“There is not only a lot of paperwork, but it is a challenge for growers to understand the rules and do the research to comply with this Act, and nearly all of the information comes only in English,” says Griswold. “So, even though our main business is importing coffee, we found it essential that we educate our staff about the Act and then share that knowledge with our coffee suppliers in a Spanish-language seminar, and also with our roaster customers,” explains Griswold.
Following the seminar, Sustainable Harvest continues to provide cooperatives with assistance with the Act. “The new FDA laws require foreign suppliers to find a US Agent that will represent them and serve as the communications link to the FDA,” says Griswold. “Every single coffee facility and mill that handles our coffee beans must be registered, and that is a great number of supplier groups from the nine countries where we buy our organic specialty coffees.
“The meeting in Oaxaca served as an opportunity where our suppliers could gather together and learn how to handle these new requirements,” explains Griswold. “Over the two-day event, we were able to lay out a business strategy to confront the challenges and figure out the best solution. Now our supply chain is prepared to bring in organic and fair trade coffees in December and beyond.”
“What was most concerning to us was to see that if we didn’t step in and support our growers with this training seminar, the alternatives appeared to be a handful of price-gouging website entrepreneurs who will register foreign suppliers, charging fees up to $1,000 for each facility. But since the FDA is not charging a fee to register, it seems to be another example of how the complex requirements and an English-only format puts independent Spanish-speaking cooperatives at a disadvantage to the large corporate coffee firms. Even a $1,000 fee is extremely painful for small-scale coffee farmers who are already suffering from the lowest coffee prices in recent history,” says Griswold.
The Oaxaca City seminar focused on other coffee-related business issues facing suppliers of quality organic and fair trade coffee. For example, there were several coffee tasting intensives, where growers and roasters were able to calibrate their tastes, with the goal of improving their communication about the coffee’s quality standards and shared expectations for the upcoming crop.
The coffee calibration is part of a new business model pioneered by Sustainable Harvest called ‘Relationship Coffee’. Sustainable Harvest now brings buyers and sellers into direct, one-to-one business relationships that have greater price transparency and direct contact. The model eliminates the inefficiency of non-essential middlemen, but adds value for importers like Sustainable Harvest who have expanded the scope of services it provides to growers and roasters.
The Relationship Coffee model helps roasters identify the best of the crop, buy that product exclusively, and communicate directly with the grower on quality standards and other business issues. Meaningful business relationships are formed to provide a profitable future for both, to ensure exemplary coffees for years to come.
About Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers
Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers started in 1996. It is a privately held firm, headquartered at the Natural Capital Center in downtown Portland, Oregon. The company is one of the largest importers of sustainable coffees in the United States, serving roaster clients like Allegro/Whole Foods Markets, Peet's Coffee and Tea, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Caribou Coffee, Batdorf and Bronson, Santa Cruz Coffee and Stumptown Coffee Roasters.
Each year Sustainable Harvest imports the pound-equivalent of 300 million cups of coffee through its relationship coffee model, enabling the company to trace back every bean purchased to a farm or village source. Its supply-focused operation, Sustainable Origins, is based in Oaxaca, Mexico. Sustainable Harvest imports organic, sustainable and fair-trade specialty coffees from nine countries. David Griswold is founder and President of Sustainable Harvest and is the current President of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), the world's largest coffee industry trade group.
Contact: Charmaine Schmid, Tel: 503-235-1119, firstname.lastname@example.org