Transparency in the coffee world

Is transparency the shortest way to a more honest world?

At Caffenation we think it is. 

And luckily we are not alone. At

we see more coffee roasters engaged for more transparency and a honest way of doing business with the people at origin. And it is a very logical step for Caffenation to be the first Belgian company to sign the pledge and join these roasteries who think along the same line in terms of transparency and the best way to help the people at origin.

In the coffee world we all agree that the most important person in the whole chain is not the coffee trader, roaster or barista, but the coffee farmer! They put in the hardest labour and expertise, while they are most often left behind with the lowest income. 

Saying you pay a lot, or the fair trade price, for your coffee is not enough; you have to be transparent and challenge the competition to do the same thing. This way it is no longer the loudest screamer who gets the attention but the fairest person in the room. 

Of course, as a coffee roaster, you can’t do all this by yourself. Partnering for the import of these two coffees, we worked together with Nordic Approach and Falcon Coffees. Not only do they have very fanatic and gifted green coffee buyers, who help the farmers improve with quality and sustainability, they also pay the right price for it and communicate openly regarding farmer and export - called FOB (free on board) - prices. Of course there are more and more coffee exporters and importers who try to follow the same (honest and clear) procedures in terms of transparency and we want to thank all of them for thinking along the same lines. 

It's important to note that the conversation in the industry around farmgate pricing is still developing around two central points: a) uncovering farmgate price is the best way of knowing if individual farmers are being paid fairly, which is complicated by the fact that b) in the majority of cases, pinpointing the exact farmgate amount for each farmer can be very difficult. 

Despite its name, farmers don't actually get paid at their farms (something that would be especially difficult for small farms in particularly remote area's). Farmers will bring their coffee (cherry or parchment, so not exportable yet) to certain plazas or exchange points where they will sell their coffee on the spot to a cooperative or buyer. 

Producers we get specialty coffee from get paid twice: first when they sell their coffee at the exchange points (considered the 'base' price payment) and again after the coffee has been milled, cupped and scored. Basically it goes; the higher it cups, the more it's worth. 

But the biggest danger in all lays in this second payment. We very often see malpractices on the side of less scrupulous buyers who simply pocket the extra cash. It's all very difficult to track, but for roasters, the best way to ensure that the farmers you're buying your coffee from are indeed receiving a fair price (for all their hard labour and knowledge) is to work with importers who have clearly invested in real, long-term, sustainable relationships with their producing partners and communicate openly about its practices, traceability and money transfers. 

To finish off we add a link to another organization helping to improve farmers livelihood.

The data for the two coffees in the new green LGB bags:

Ethiopia Chelbesa Danche #4 Gr1 Organic:

Nordic Approach paid the farmers 24 Ethiopian Birr for every kilo of cherry. In most cases the farmers are paid for the cherries they deliver at the station. 

The FOB price, which is simply explained “the price that’s paid to have the goods on the boat”, was $7,27/Kg. 

And the Colombia Cafe Del Micay:

Falcon didn’t give farmer gate prices, but left us their FOB (free on board) price which was $5,6/Kg. A serious price which allows their local exporter, Siruma, to pay their farmers collective a price way above the fair trade model.

For us as a roastery we pay in total for these coffee, compared to the FOB price, on average 50% more, including the margin of the coffee trader, plus cost of warehouse, admin, shipping, pre-finance and excise duties (country tax on green coffee). This final price is what we call 'Greens Price' and is noted on the invoice our clients receive after goods are delivered at their bar/shop/warehouse.

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