“Sustainability” has become a widely and, often, loosely used word in recent years, not only in the coffee industry, but among businesses, large and small worldwide.
AMANDA EASTWOOD reviews the work of the Farmer Profitability and Prosperity working group in light of its excruciating relevance this year.
The term provokes a range of knee-jerk responses anywhere from inspiration to utter irritation. Specific to the coffee sector, the concept of sustainability encompasses a broad array of topics, which, until clearly defined, may seem intangible and difficult to address. This often leadings to inaction, even among concerned individuals.
For years, sustainability professionals within our community have meat at least once per annum to take on the task of dissecting the convoluted term in an attempt to define what sustainability really meant, and eventually to establish action steps to impact positive changes across the sector. With the identification of specific issues, volunteer groups were formed to tackle each as they presented.
From this exercise, the Farmer Profitability and Prosperity (FPP) group was born, comprised of individuals living and working both in producing and consuming countries at different points along the supply chain. Unpredictable challenges including weather conditions, fluctuating currencies, increasing costs of production, scarcity of manual labor, minimum wage laws, unstable governments, predatory lending, competition from other origins, pests and disease and volatile coffee prices, among others, pose potentially devastating threats to farming communities’ ability to profit and prosper through coffee production alone. These threats, however, are often unknown or unclear to supply chain actors on the consuming side of the business. Actors who – armed with information and motivation – hold considerable power to impact the livelihoods of coffee farming communities.
“The drop in ‘C’ prices below US$1.00 in August 2018 has drawn the attention of major media sources covering the topic and reaching a readership of coffee consumers worldwide.”
Aiming to better communicate these realities so as to inform, inspire, and incite action from professionals along the entire coffee supply chain, the FPP group has organized and led presentations at SCA related events and contributed articles in the well-circulated coffee industry publications. The group eventually dove into the world of webinars, developing a series to explore specific topics related to the broader issue. Webinars have discussed the basics of Farmer Profitability and Prosperity to familiarize listeners with the topic, explored the complexities of coffee prices and the idea of developing multi-year strategies to create price stability, and, most recently, supply chain partners at origin shared about their experiences about diversifying beyond coffee as a strategy to improve profitability as part of the group’s first webinar in Spanish.
Since the inception of the FPP work group in 2016, the topic has gained notable traction throughout the coffee sector and beyond. The drop in “C” prices below US$1.00 in August 2018 has drawn the attention of major media sources covering the topic and reaching a readership of coffee consumers worldwide. Colombia’s FNC has published statements imploring the support of the sector to pay higher prices for fear of farmers’ livelihoods leading to fewer of them engaged in coffee farming activities and a decrease in production. In an aim to create multi-year visibility around real prices paid for coffee, the Specialty Coffee Transaction Guide pilot was launched by Emory University with plans to formalize and grow over the next three years. The SCA has launched the Coffee Price Crisis Response Initiative to more effectively understand and address the topic. These are just a few among many initiatives underway to confront this excruciatingly relevant issue. At present, the FPP workgroup is evaluating the best next steps to effectively push the topic forward in conjunction with initiatives like these listed above.
AMANDA EASTWOOD focuses on sustainable sourcing throughout Latin America on behalf of Falcon Coffees. The views expressed in this feature are personal.
To learn more about the Farmer Profitability and Prosperity group and recent webinars,
Members of the FPP working group will also take part in a multi-part lecture series,
“A Two Part Arc About the C Market and the Future of Specialty Coffee.”
10:15 AM – 12:30 PM Friday in Room 253A.