Securing the Future of Quality Coffee: Risk Management and New Opportunities to Strengthen Coffee Supply

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by Ben Corey-Moran, Fair Trade USA

Growing great coffee is no easy task. Period. Now, try producing the finest beans on the market while battling the pounding hand of climate change, the spread of diseases like coffee leaf rust, and wildly volatile markets with an oftentimes distant relationship to the generally accepted terms of supply and demand; the odds are largely stacked against the modern coffee farmer. This high-risk, low-return scenario leads us to a very basic yet critically important “aha”—the ability to not only survive in coffee, but to thrive, lies in the capacity to manage risk at all levels of production. The future of exceptional coffee depends on it.

Market Volatility and the
Small-Scale Farmer

It is a fact that the vast majority of the world’s coffee farmers are small-scale producers. For many of them, their collective success, and the scale of their production, requires aggregation—the organization of multiple (sometimes hundreds or thousands) of farmers working together to produce, process, sort, and export coffee. These formal organizations, largely cooperatives, play a critical role in linking farmers with the market, helping them become not just producers, but also traders. For better or for worse, with this role comes exposure to market volatility, and the risks it creates for all.

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