Bringing roasters, buyers and coffee producers together last week, NCBA CLUSA, in partnership with the USAID Cooperative Development Program, hosted producers from five Latin American countries for a coffee fair and networking event on Thursday.
Representing cooperatives and producer organizations, each group was able to host a coffee tasting and give a short presentation to attendees, highlighting not only the quality coffee, but why investing in co-op coffee has impacts beyond income for farmers’ families.
Highlighting the trade relationship, many groups also had fair trade certification, which was reinvested in their co-ops in social and education programs in their communities.
“This event was really important for Fairtrade. It’s not often that the farmers come to the U.S. ... It gave me a chance to meet a lot of the people who are living and breathing Fairtrade every day,” said Liz Guerrero, Resource Development Manager for Fairtrade America, who was in attendance.
Capping off the afternoon, specialty coffee merchants 32Cup led a coffee cupping session, going through the process of determining quality coffee for experts and newer aficionados alike. They even bought a container of coffee after tasting the quality from the Guatemala samples.
The event showcased coffees from El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and Brazil, as well as Indonesia and East Timor, bringing out the regional flavors and differences.
“[Coffee Origins] is a very different dynamic from a coffee trade show, or any trade show in general. Here you sit down, you can talk a little bit more, there’s less pressure but you can still find so many opportunities for our growers,” said Miguel Soli, the Commercial Attaché for the Embassy of Guatemala.
“If you give opportunities to these small industries—like coffee cooperatives—the members will be less willing to migrate, because they have good, stable jobs here in Guatemala,” Soli added. Exemplifying this is Angelita Paz Cardona, who’s work with NCBA CLUSA in Guatemala has supported her staying and building up her community. Guatemalan groups were represented at Coffee Origins.
For Nidia Gomez of FECCEG, a federation of eight coffee co-ops in Guatemala, events like these help to strengthen those partnerships and market relationships.
“The main goal for us today was to have a chance to meet new buyers—specifically roasters—because we are usually in touch with the importers, who are in between the farmers and roasters, but it’s perfect to talk directly to the roasters. For us, this networking and connections is a really good match,” Gomez said.
Coffee Origins was also a chance to strengthen regional relationships and connect government staff with the market relationships happening on the ground.
“We believe that we are stronger as a region when we work together, and that is why it is also extremely important for us to support the efforts of our friends here from Guatemala, Honduras, Brazil and other countries that are working hand in hand with NCBA CLUSA,” said Enilson Solano, Minister Counselor for Economic Affairs at the Embassy of El Salvador here in Washington, D.C.
NCBA CLUSA is working with coffee co-ops in El Salvador, like Las Lajas Cooperative, which was represented at Coffee Origins, to support the rebuilding of the coffee industry in the country after the rust plague decimated harvests in 2013.
The Coffee Origins event was hosted in partnership with NCBA CLUSA's USAID Cooperative Development Program, supporting Latin American Alliances and co-op to co-op trade.