Over the past two months, we have brought you updates on how our coffee suppliers network has been dealing with endless new matters in the wake of the pandemic: Mandate isolation, social distancing, unimaginable health safety measures and all type of restrictions to somehow contain the Covid19 outbreak and to guarantee those so expected coffees make it to Belco. Beyond letting you know the now common and maybe not so positive content regarding this subject, our message as a coffee sourcer will always be to encourage all the active people in our value chain to move on! In that sense, we are all trying our adaptability and resiliency out.
Over the past two months, we have brought you updates on how our coffee suppliers network has been dealing with endless new matters in the wake of the pandemic: Mandate isolation, social distancing, unimaginable health safety measures and all type of restrictions to somehow contain the Covid19 outbreak and to guarantee those so expected coffees make it to Belco. Beyond letting you know the now common and maybe not so positive content regarding this subject, our message as a coffee sourcer will always be to encourage all the active people in our value chain to move on! In that sense, we are all trying our adaptability and resiliency out.Let´s use coffee as a vehicle to travel around the world, awaken conscience and discover opinions! This time, we broke the isolation and reached out, at least virtually, three origins in South America: Brazil, Peru and Colombia. Join us to find out some opinions of our suppliers from very different perspectives and realities on diverse but common topics.
New challenges that lead to a new reality.
Producers face new challenges that could give rise to rough situations sonner or later. In all cases, new dedicated transportation services for collaborators, working hours’ reduction due to current restrictions and investing in health and protective supplies are necessary measures, but they represent an increase on the current operating expenses.
FAF’s Felipe Croce in Brazil has just started harvesting last week and getting in full swing the next days until July/August. FAF is a network of family farms naturally isolated, like most growing regions in Brazil; even though this area of the country-side seems to be at low risk right now, investing in educational training among farmer-holders and pickers has become a constant task to guarantee labor safety, who normally are local residents.
COOPAGRO’s co-founder Norbil Vela in Peru, who is also a coffee grower in the region of Jaen, stresses that the cooperative is facing staffing and scheduling challenges due to the established lockdowns and curfews; this makes transportation to the city limited, mainly because farmers are definitely scared, situation that is leading to the lack of labor for the current harvest. Financing is not an option and for now, farmers are provided with technical assistance and general communication by phone as well as it is the transportation service to bring the coffees to the dry mill in town. COOPAGRO was about to start their certifications renewal, which might happen virtually, Norbil says. This cooperative supports a moderate group of farmers in the surrounding areas of Jaen province and despite the fact that all negative out this situation, Norbil truly believes this is a great opportunity to evaluate the real impact that COOPAGRO is producing by working with many growers whom families are getting benefits social and economically.
On the other hand, Laura and Afranio of Hacienda La Leona in Colombia, a medium size family farm where the main crop is about to get started, stay very optimist on quality and volumes this year. They are taking advantage that there is a calmed situation in this coffee growing region, which is allowing them to work with certain normality but respecting the circulation restrictions, spreading preventive information among their labor, who is people coming from the surrounding areas. They are very into coffee farming and processing as far as possible.
An opinion on Specialty Coffee.
Across the board, there is a common willing and interest in keeping a future for specialty coffee; this will happen only if producers have long-term business relationships with reliable clients like Belco and its network of roasters, to stay well positioned and invest coming out the outbreak, they say. However, Felipe predicts a rough couple of years ahead of him with stormy seas. He is convinced we are all in this situation together but not necessarily in the same boat, being this a time to reach out and help each other; it is also a time to strengthen alliances and friendships.“I foresee companies that survive to become stronger and emboldened. Customers will be increasingly more conservative and less trusting of brands. They will think twice before purchasing and it will be on us, entrepreneurs and brands, to be more vocal and political about our beliefs. I see a future market that is more about values than about prices”, Felipe describes.Laura and Afranio are not giving up on specialty coffee. Having a high quality product will keep many doors and possibilities open for them and their collaborators, whether locally or out of Colombia. They express that being creative or innovative is useless if they are offering a low-quality coffee to their clients and that is the reason why they should adapt to a new market, but always respecting nature and their people.As seen in Europe, drinking better coffee at home is becoming an emerging industry. Both, Felipe and Norbil agree that the local market will open a possibility to producers to break into conventional niches such as supermarkets and delivery apps. In a very positive future, they get to see specialty and companies that are more sustainably oriented growing stronger with larger followings, approaching their public virtually and promoting innovation and convenience.In the end, coffee goes far beyond being a mean to reach out places, it is our kind reminder of the importance of staying connected and take all valuable information to keep this industry alive.
Marjorie Canjura & Diego Zamora, for the Belco team.
What is the current situation in your farm or surrounding areas?
Felipe: Still low risk of contagion; few cases in this coffee growing region; lot of training on health safety among partners.
Norbil: High risk of contagion in the communities; lots of fear; lockdowns and curfews.
Laura & Afranio: Medium risk of contagion; relative calm, lockdowns.
What are the main consequences after the Covid19 outbreak?
Felipe: Only potential ones, at the moment.
Norbil: Lack of labor due to fear and restrictions; low yields; limited agricultural supplies.
Laura & Afranio: Only potential ones, at the moment.
What is the opinion of collaborators about the outbreak (families and community)?
Norbil: Lots of fear for the contagion and the uncertainty to sell the coffees.
Laura & Afranio: Collaborators are quite confident right now. Few or no cases in the area.
What is the farm status at the moment?
Felipe: Beginning of harvest; it will extend up to July/August.
Norbil: About to start harvest.
Laura & Afranio: Beginning of main crop.
What is the impact at your coffee business?
Felipe: Any significant right now.
Norbil: Delays in the 2020 campaign; liquidity issues; no financing.
Laura & Afranio: Any significant right now.
Could productivity and yields being affected by the situation?
Felipe: A particular very good climate this year. Expecting both good quality and quantity.
Norbil: It seemed to be a good year, but lack of labor due to the restrictions will definitely affect.
Laura & Afranio: Good quality and volumes are expected. Lack of labor at the peak of the harvest is a possibility.
Health and protective measure among your collaborators?
Felipe: Service transportations following distancing; masks, alcohol gel and trainings.
Norbil: Service transportations following distancing; masks, alcohol gel and trainings, new procedures.
Laura & Afranio: Only spreading valuable information on health issues and the virus among workers.
What are the actions to minimize the social and economic consequences of the situation?
Felipe: Strengthen current and potential alliances and friendship
Norbil: Adapting; coordination special transportation service to move the coffees; getting special permits for growers; virtual audits for renewal of certifications; technical support by phone; strengthen current alliances.
Laura & Afranio: There is the belief that high quality coffee can keep many doors and possibilities open. Only focusing on quality and getting assisted for the harvest.
What is your opinion on how coffee markets and your coffee business will change?
Felipe: Coffee volumes will lower; specialty sector will get hit pretty hard. New trends could emerge; new conventional markets will be available to position coffees.
Norbil: Family consumption will increase; delivery apps will emerge; coffee shops can get hit very hard. Learning how to live with the pandemic: home office; practicing values like solidarity, helping each other; non-centralized coffee gathering points.
Laura & Afranio: They are open to adapt to new trends whether locally of our of Colombia as long as they offer a high quality coffee and get a fair price for it.
What is your opinion on future of specialty?
Felipe: Difficult at the beginning. The industry will be more based on values than prices.
Norbil: The demand will lower with no doubt; but it will get recover.
Laura & Afranio: Very optimist, but the transition will take some years.