Cima Coffee Farms Brings ‘Socially Sustainable’ Coffee To Market–And You Can Buy a Piece of the Rock
Guest post by James Cummiskey of Cima Coffee Farms.
The U.S. coffee market is a $40 billion industry. Coffee demand is at an all-time high. Despite this, there is a crisis in the coffee industry.
The most important people in this process, the farmers, are not making enough money to survive. The average pound of coffee grown in Latin America costs $1.65 to make. Yet farmers are routinely getting only $1.20 per pound on the commercial market.
Coffee producers and workers are kept in a cycle of poverty by industry dynamics designed to shift the profits to the multitude of intermediaries between the seed and the cup (wet miller, dry miller, exporter, importer, roaster, retailer). This situation is untenable.
Fortunately, we believe we’ve found the answer that turns the supply chain on its ear. A socially-sustainable model, which rewards farmers for the excellent coffee they grow, and rewards our investors who make the entire process possible.
We are Cima Coffee Farms, Tierra Cafetera, and Coffee LatinAmerica, sister companies that make it possible for individual investors to own titled land on a working Latin American coffee farm. We buy farms that produce specialty coffee in the top five percent in terms of quality.
Then we institute best growing practices and sell the coffee on the lucrative specialty-coffee market instead of the commercial market. Where once farmers were selling their coffee for $1.20/pound, our coffee sells for $3/pound or more. We control the entire supply chain and are able to deliver a nice return for our investors as well as dramatically increased pay and benefits for the farmers.
This is the essence of what we are calling “Socially Sustainable” coffee. The integration of profitable agribusiness with social change enables a higher probability of success for achieving our goals. We collect survey data all over Latin America to determine the average cost to produce a pound of coffee in each country. We then add a minimum of 20% to this average cost to produce the minimum price we will ever pay the farmer for a pound of coffee.
This 20% gross profit margin provides the farmer a life filled with hope and the dignity that everyone deserves. Beyond this 20% base price, we often pay much more for truly outstanding coffees. “Socially Sustainable” coffee recognizes and prioritizes the FARMER’s sustainability over anything else in the value chain.
Integrating the concept of social sustainability in ALL of our agricultural transactions is the future of responsible consumerism. Various international “fair trade” certification programs are well-intended, but not really effective in realizing the vision of “fair trade” as a philosophy of empowering the farmer. “’Fair Trade’ simply ain’t that fair.” As Daniel Jaffee writes in his excellent book “Brewing Justice: Fair Trade Coffee, Sustainability, and Survival,” the key is:
Building a trading system that is genuinely alternative, inclusive, and just—this is the path that holds the greatest promise for fulfilling the promise of fair trade.
Virtual DirecTrade and our integrated value-chain of coffee companies and empowering technologies for the farmer are on this path.
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