The first step to international exports for co-op coffee in El Salvador

San Carlos Dos Cooperative member-owners stand next to their inaugural coffee export, destined for London.San Carlos Dos Cooperative member-owners stand next to their inaugural coffee export, destined for London.San Carlos Dos Cooperative member-owners stand next to their inaugural coffee export, destined for London.In early 2016, the NCBA CLUSA's marketing and sales team in El Salvador began working with the San Carlos Dos Cooperative, one of the country’s diamonds in the rough.

Given that San Carlos Dos had traditionally sold their green coffee wholesale to larger Salvadoran buyers, the team saw an opportunity to give them an extra leg up in sales support when their coffee was scoring 82.5 at the cupping table. NBCA CLUSA El Salvador knew they could help the cooperative get better prices; despite having a high quality product, the cooperative had yet to enter the export world.

As any exporter knows, there is a lot of learning that needs to take place to bridge the gap between harvesting coffee and exporting coffee. We focused on getting the cooperative “export-ready” with targeted logistics training that included quality control, compliance, bag preparation and loading procedure. When an opportunity to export to London and South Africa presented itself in 2016, the cooperative was ready for the challenge.

“Prior to working with the Coffee Rehabilitation Project, San Carlos Dos had only ever sold in bulk to national buyers at below commodity market prices. They had never received the recognition or price premiums that their high scoring coffee deserved. Being able to help them take those first steps toward export and then seeing them land an international sale just a year later brings great satisfaction to all of us," said Beatriz Alegria, NCBA CLUSA El Salvador's marketing specialist.

"Looking ahead, the key to their success now lies in how they will manage new buyer relationships and the continuity in their quality and compliance," Alegria added. 

Israel Marquez, president of San Carlos Dos Cooperative, noted that, “It was a great experience for us, from learning how to fill out the export forms to how to properly fill the bags for loading. Now that we have our first export under our belt, new doors are opening and it’s more exciting to go to the trade fairs. Now when we talk with international buyers, we can say that we’ve already exported. Some new buyers from the U.S. and Europe have even asked us about our predictions for next year’s harvest and to let them know how it goes."

"You could say we really feel motivated now!" Marquez added 

Since the launch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded El Salvador Coffee Rehabilitation and Agricultural Diversification Project in 2014, NCBA CLUSA has worked alongside El Salvador’s environmental policy and promoted sustainable agriculture technology and techniques, such as soil conservation systems and worker health practices. Additional support in marketing, sales and finance completes this targeted effort to increase the competitiveness of El Salvador’s coffee industry.

With coffee production down sharply due to coffee rust, climate change hitting hard and market prices in constant fluctuation, El Salvador’s coffee industry has been decimated over the past few years. The El Salvador Coffee Rehabilitation and Agricultural Diversification Project program works with producers to transition farmland to rust-resistant plant varieties, produce organic soil amendments, improve marketing practices and create access to innovative investment mechanisms, in an integrated approach to rebuild the industry.

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