In our modern, technology driven world, it's easier than ever before to connect. Products can be shipped around the world in days and you can skype and keep in touch with people on the far side of the world.
With all this increase in connectivity, there’s a growing disconnect in our industry; between the farmers growing our coffee and us, the end consumers enjoying the fruits of their labour.
At the heart of the issue is the C price. The price of coffee changes every minute. This is because coffee is handled as a commodity. Commodities are simply raw materials that can be bought and sold on regulated markets known as commodities exchanges. In the case of coffee this is known as the C-Price.
At its basic level, the C price is defined by supply and demand. The C price is not linked to the cost of production, and this has a very real impact on producers.
The C price is at a 12 year low. In producing countries such as Brazil and Colombia prices have fallen below the cost of production.
We’re talking about small holders, families often with a couple of acres of steep terrain, relying on the return on their coffee crop to live off.
This instability is a real problem facing farmers, and has dire consequences for us end consumers including the long term sustainability of the coffee we all enjoy.
What Can we do?
There are a lot of different companies and initiatives who recognise the issues faced by farmers and the wider industry and are doing their best to combat these problems.
Terms like Fair trade, direct trade, specialty, ethically sourced are all terms floating around, which usually go some way towards addressing some of the issues faced by farmers, but there is a real lack of transparency and clarity about what all these terms mean and a difficulty communicating that to the end consumer.
Several of the coffee importers and roasters in NZ work directly with farmers to ensure minimum pricing standards, incentivise quality, offer financial support, and develop long term relationships with their farmers.
It’s up to roasters to align themselves with companies who share similar values and vision and ultimately consumers to support them.
Be curious. Ask your roaster about how they source their coffees and why. Look not just for the country of origin, but for the farm and even the farmers names, this helps ensure a higher level of traceability. And remember, quality doesn’t happen by accident.
Here in NZ we have a lot of really great roasters, both big and small. Many of whom are doing their bit for sustainability, and the On The Grind subscription is a great way to connect with companies you might never have heard of and see what they do.
Guest Blog Written By: Jason Moore - Vanguard Specialty Coffee