2. SUSTAINABLE SOURCING OF COFFEE
Strengthening our relationships with producer partners around the world is as crucial as ever, with coffee farmers continuing to grapple with the impacts of climate change and soaring cost of inputs. Read more here about how our longstanding commitment to sourcing Fairtrade coffee is making an impact in our supply chain and the impact of our Project Next Gen with Smokin’ Bean and the Valle Ubiriki cooperative in Peru.
25 YEARS OF FAIRTRADE
Here at Matthew Algie, we are incredibly proud of the fact that we were the first coffee roaster to introduce a Fairtrade espresso to the UK market, all the way back in 1997.
In that time, the sale of Fairtrade certified Matthew Algie coffee has helped to generate nearly £7million in Fairtrade Premiums for coffee farmers in small-scale producer organisations. These premiums play a vital role in allowing producers to invest in the quality of their coffee, the sustainability of their operations and contribute to community development.
A great example of how the Fairtrade Premiums have benefited farmers in our supply chain is showcased by Sol y Café, a Peruvian cooperative that we source from. They’ve been able to improve various aspects of their operations such as quality, productivity, and environment. Some examples of how the Premium has improved quality and productivity are: the production of seedlings for the renovation of trees, use of organic fertilisers and the construction of solar dryers to help ensure coffee is processed to a high standard. The Fairtrade Premiums have also helped Sol y Café in an environmental sense by allowing them to carry out an inventory of agroforestry plots. This has facilitated the legal production of wood as an alternative income stream for farmers.
To mark the 25th anniversary of launching the UK’s first Fairtrade espresso we hosted two online panel discussions. Each event sought to highlight some of the key issues facing producers today and explored how we are working with Fairtrade to address them. We were joined by guest speakers including, coffee farmers and representatives from around the world, along with the team at Fairtrade Foundation and our own in-house experts.
Empowering Women in Coffee
According to Fairtrade International, "around 60-80 percent of the world’s food is grown by women. Yet women often don’t own the land and see little of the profit made from it".
Fairtrade is helping to challenge the gender gap, with Standards that are designed to "prevent gender inequality, increase female participation and empower more women and girls to access the benefits of Fairtrade".
Luzmila Loayza Feliú, Export and Logistics Manager at Frontera San Ignacio cooperative in Peru was a guest speaker on the Empowering Women in Coffee panel. She spoke of the great achievements of the women at Frontera San Ignacio. They have a women-only committee, “Las Damas de San Ignacio”. Their coffee is produced exclusively by women which is helping to change attitudes towards a woman’s role in the coffee industry at the farm level.
Elenita Simões Rodrigues, a female farmer who produces coffee for the Ascarive cooperative in Brazil, believes that Fairtrade has also supported female empowerment in the coffee industry. She believes that she would not be working in coffee without the influence and impact of Fairtrade: “Fairtrade brought a lot of good things…otherwise, we wouldn't be here. It was more the men who worked, who did things. And today the women, you see, everyone is standing out, doing things, working with coffee. I think this is very good. It is helping a lot, for sure.”
In this webinar we wanted to develop a greater understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing women coffee farmers.
The Future of Coffee
In our own producer survey earlier this year we identified the top concerns of coffee producers around the world as economic and climate-related. Firstly, although coffee prices continue to trend well above the Fairtrade Minimum Price, the rising cost of production is squeezing the profitability of farms. Secondly, climate change is reducing productivity on farms and there is a growing requirement for access to more resilient varieties. These concerns are having a knock-on effect on the youth in coffee growing communities, who are increasingly more likely to seek out alternative career paths, putting the long-term future of coffee at risk.
In our second webinar, Paulo Ferreira Junior, Coffee Expert at the CLAC, shared how Fairtrade supports cooperatives to engage young people in coffee, as well as his own personal experience of the career opportunities that coffee has offered him. Paulo said that in Fairtrade cooperatives young, energetic and creative sons and daughters of coffee farmers are now viewing coffee as a great business opportunity. They realise the opportunities available to them if they work hard to develop the quality of their coffee and if they can encourage a change in the management of the farms. He believes the young farmers will help to improve collaboration between farm-level production and global players in the supply chain which will help to address key issues more quickly.
Elson Benedito Daniel is a farmer whose Fairtrade coffee supplies the Ascarive cooperative in Brazil. When we asked him his advice for the younger generations he said “If they dedicate themselves, follow what is happening with the climate today, there is a future. But I also advise them to study, because without study, in the field, we cannot go ahead. I hope that 25 years from now, everything that I have achieved up to now, I hope that my children will be able to carry on with what I have, continue to be a sustainable farmer so that they will be able to raise their new family in the future.”
He also talked about the difference that Fairtrade has made to the economic outlook of this coffee farm – “Life before fair trade was different, because we didn't have an added value like we have today. Today, we have the value that we think our product is worth.”
“I am proud, and I hope that out there, when a person has a cup of coffee, he or she will think " wow, this cup of coffee came from that Fairtrade producer who worked hard in the fields for us to have it here"… I would like to ask those who buy these products, not only me, but coffee producers, to value the price of coffee.”
In this webinar we wanted to develop an understanding of the support needed for young people to remain in the coffee industry, and to consider ways we can help farmers to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
PROJECT NEXT GEN
The average age of coffee farmers is increasing, yet it’s becoming more common for the next generation to leave the family farm in search of different career paths.
It’s clear that for coffee to support communities for generations to come, we must engage young people, and offer a promising future. The demand for coffee is growing and showing no signs of slowing down. With this comes many more opportunities for the ambitious young farmer. We want to motivate young people to choose coffee and to show them that it can provide a stable and profitable future.
Working alongside Valle Ubiriki and our partner, Smokin’ Bean, in 2020 we launched “Project Next Gen” which had the aim of improving the quality of coffee and to develop the capabilities in quality control of young cooperative staff. The project ran from June 2021 to September 2022 and supported 24 young cooperative members, or children of members, under the age of 35.
Five modules, with varying difficulty levels, taught participants on many aspects of quality control. After each module, the top students progressed further until 3 remained. Those 3 were put up for their Q-grader examination which is an internationally recognised qualification showing you are highly trained in coffee cupping (tasting). Becoming a Q-grader provides them with a unique and invaluable skill set to progress in the coffee industry.
At the beginning and end of the project, the participants were asked to take part in a survey to understand their thoughts on the coffee industry and where they fit within it. The following questions were asked:
1 Do you have an interest in having a career in the coffee industry?
At the beginning of the project, 83% of the participants “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that they have an “interest in having a career in the industry”. By the end of the project, 100% of the remaining participants strongly agreed with the statement.
2 Do you consider that there is an opportunity for young people to prosper in the coffee industry?
At the beginning of the project only 42% indicated they “agreed” that “there is an opportunity for young people to prosper in the coffee industry”. By the end of the project, 100% of the remaining participants stated that they “strongly agreed” indicating they believe there are great opportunities for young people to thrive in the coffee industry.
3 Are you aware of what coffee cultivation implies?
At the beginning of the project, 54% of participants “agreed” or “strongly agreed”, that they were “aware of what coffee cultivation entails”. By the end of the project, all the remaining participants stated either “agreed” or “strongly agreed” which indicates a marked improvement in their coffee growing knowledge.
4 Do you know what makes the highest quality coffee?
At the beginning of the project 25% “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that they “know what makes the highest quality coffee”. By the end of the project, 100% of the remaining participants stated they “strongly agreed” indicating they now have much greater knowledge of what makes a high-quality coffee.
The presence of 7 students who were a part of Project Next Gen has helped bolster the quality control department. The department benefitted by having increased expertise in tasting, allowing them to deliver an improved service to members of the cooperative.
Miriam Ibañez was one of the young people who took part in the project and was selected to take the Q-grader examination. She is a cooperative member who owns her own farm, on which she grows 1 hectare of coffee. Miriam told us a bit about her experience of being involved in the project:
“I am a member and my father is a member of the cooperative, I am the daughter of farmers, and I have known coffee since I was a young girl, how it is grown, how the farmers base their the day to day on their coffee. Now already as I have grown older, I notice that the coffee has several attributes and is due to different factors that give it special characteristics. Participating in this course has allowed me to know different experiences and learn more on the subject of coffee. I'm just starting to learn and getting to know the different flavours, which in each coffee sample can be found, such as its different touches, tastes. It's what I like about the industry of coffee!"