Saturday, August 25, 2007

Mr Rogers Talk about a fund raiser; watch Mr Rogers secure 20 million dollars in 6 minutes!

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Indigenous mountain farmers worry at least as much about sustainability as about fair trade prices. Yes the family may cover the price of harvest this year but what about next year. Will the harvest dry properly? Will the rain ruin the drying process? How do I get my product to market? How do I know what the beans are worth? The Mayan farmers speak neither English nor Spanish. They and their cooperativas are vulnerable to exploitation. The actions of NGOs and nonprofits, while always well intended, may not be sustainable. There are many examples: wet-mills without water, padlocked latrines, schools-without-teachers, even resentment, indolence and backlash.

Sustainability is a prime requisite of successful entrepreneurial activity, whether in the most primitive agrarian society, or in the advanced technological era. Sustainability is the reason for the new business school emphasis on "for-profit companies with a social mission." The for-profit company fosters just such critical sustainability. EFC's Our sustainability depends entirely on the sustainability, profitability, quality and reliability of our indigenous source. Working with the farmers and their cooperativas, gives them the means to invest in their own critical harvesting and processing needs as they learn to see them.

EFC's business model, with its well developed logistics, finance, and business principles, provides the indigenous cooperativa a lasting framework of knowledge and of market connection. The first priority of enterprise is survival, and that survival requires a high quality and dependable source of material. That supply is dependent upon land, labor, capital and entrepreneurial ability. When the Fair Trade importer embraces the supply chain, as a for-profit enterprise, the involvement leads to a cultivation of the farmer-supplier as part of the supply chain. The farmer has the high mountain hectares, and we bring access to the American consumer. In so doing the farmer -supplier develops the metrics of quality, a connection with the transportation, processing and export of the product and a much more sustainable and competitive position in the market place.

There are winners and losers. The high profit margin in the coffee-commodity-supply-chain traditionally rests with the roaster. The pergamino, is milled in the city, so the farmer is paid only a fraction of what the green beans are worth. The miller therefore takes a bigger cut than the farmer's profit. The exporter comes next with his share of the profit, then the product becomes a part of the whole World coffee commodity market. Several middle men are eliminated when the farmer-supplier forms a functioning Cooperativa and gets involved with the milling, the roasting and the shipping. Negotiating directly with the for-profit-Fair-Trade-importer, leads to a more efficient market, a serious competitive advantage for the farmer and likely a superior product. More important the farmer now has a sustainable relationship with the World coffee market, one that will give his family a greater share of the revenue, and a better chance to survive the natural ups and downs of the harvest and the coffee business.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

New Indigenous Coffee Roaster, Guatemala

Considering coffee from the local roaster or a national chain such as Starbucks versus coffee roasted in Guatemala by the indigenous people, there are three distinct issues: 1)The roaster represents the largest profit potential in the delivery of coffee. Shifting this revenue to the growers and their cooperativas benefits the indigenous financially. 2)The growers become more involved in processing a value added, finished product, rather than a raw commodity. 3) The transport of roasted coffee by air delivers an exceptional product and a high element of social justice.

The roaster makes the major money in the coffee market. By contracting the roasting in Guatemala and involving the indigenous people in the roasting, it is possible to pay the growers a more than "fair trade price" for their coffee and still offer a competitive price to the consumer. By paying a more than fair trade price for the coffee, we bargain for the highest quality beans from the more remote, higher mountain coffee regions, thus giving the villagers of these remote volcanic regions a greater understanding of their worth and a sense of competing on the basis of quality in a depressed world coffee market. Approximately 3% of our revenue goes towards research, development and facilitating the capacity of the cooperativas from whom we buy.

With a grant from the Guatemala Ministry of Agriculture, and partially facilitated by Earth Friendly Coffee's business model, roasting history and promoted by our Guatemala roaster, a consortium of 17 indigenous cooperativas purchased a roaster and established a roasting facility in Huehuetenango. It turns out that the Roasting Facility is an indigenous women's venture as well. Many of the women from the villages will learn to do the work of milling, roasting and packaging coffee and with time engage the collection, processing, shipping and export of their product. This represents a giant leap forward in involving indigenous people in the supply chain for their coffee. Our Guatemala partner and his people will initially do the roasting and supervise the processing to insure the quality of the work. Traditionally, it is the women of the remote villages that do much of the processing. This roaster gives them the opportunity to earn a substantially greater portion of the specialty coffee dollar. The roaster also helps their people gain a sense of the market, the quality requirements and greater access to the buyers of coffee.

Earth Friendly Coffee trades for the carbon offset to mitigate the carbon burden of shipping by air. We contribute to wind generation of electricity through Native Energy. The roasted beans that are flown by air weigh 1/3 less than if they were shipped before roasting. Flying the fresh roasted coffee standby, in effect further reduces carbon impact. Furthermore, the roasted coffee arrives fresh at the distribution point within a day or two, matching or exceeding the freshness of locally roasted coffee.

More to come