Farm: Various smallholder members of Aprocoagrosh
Varietal: Primarily Caturra & Colombia
Processing: Fully Washed & dried on parabolics and raised beds
Altitude: 1,900 to 2,100 metres above sea level
Owner: Various small holder farmers; 15 producers contributed to this lot
Town / City: La Plata
Overall: Chocolate, wafer, raisin
La Plata, Huila - Colombia
Whilst Huila is naturally blessed with optimal coffee growing geography, the key to great quality coffees from the La Plata region (such as this lot) are the growers themselves. Coffee farming within the region is overwhelmingly small-scale. Indeed, approximately 80% of producers from the region farm coffee on less than 3 hectares of land. These small farms are tended by individual families with labour only very rarely being contracted out, which leads to more thorough and intensive management practices and great pride in the final product – which is, itself, an extension of the family.
It was only about a year ago that members of the large cooperative to which the producers who contributed to this lot belonged realized that their location and passion for coffee farming gave them a special edge when it came to producing high quality coffee. Seeing some of the quality initiatives and micro-lot separation that forward-thinking cooperatives around Colombia were exploring, a small group of about 20 producers broke off from the larger regional cooperative to establish their own organization – named Aprocoagrosh (quite a mouthful) - in early 2014.
As of March 2015, the organization has grown to around 30 growers (that’s 50% growth in just over a year!) and has established relationships with Mercanta’s exporting partner, Pergamino, who have worked with other cooperatives in Colombia who seek to harness quality coffee as a means to improving quality of life for their members.
There are all indications that Aprocoagrosh is a cooperative ‘on the way up’. Although the town of La Plata, where most of the farmer members live, lies at only1,000 metres (and is something of a ‘hot box’), most members’ farms lie at 1,900 metres or above in cooler climes. In order to reach these farms, one has to travel straight UP – driving an hour or more into the steep mountains that surround the town centre. Aprocoagrosh members knew that their previous coop wasn’t making full use of this potential for quality coffee production and, furthermore, didn’t represent the interest of all its growers equally. Once they set out on their own, the reached out immediately to the organisation ASORCAFE – located in Inzá, Cauca – knowing that the group had made great headway in the speciality market by working with Mercanta’s exporting partner in Antioquia. ASORCAFE also had a very solid reputation as being run according to very stringent democratic practices. Aprocoagrosh knew they would learn a lot about governance, management and quality production from the group.
ASORCAFE has helped Aprocoagrosh set up shop and establish governance guidelines and has also generously shared their contact with Pergamino (one of Mercanta’s exporting partners in Colombia) with the group.
Pergamino, as well, has been very impressed with the group and sees great potential for the future. They’ve recently established an agreement with Aprocoagrosh that includes not only purchasing from the group but also serving as mentors and trainers in the group’s quest for improved quality. In the coming year, a cupper from Pergamino will spend 3 months in La Plata, Huila with the group, teaching cupping and helping them establish a cupping lab and protocols. In the future, Pergamino has agreed to cup all coffees scoring 80 points or above from the group and has committed to finding markets for any lots scoring 84 or above.
The benefits for members are great. Members have expressed excitement about the ensured access to speciality markets and better prices, of course; but more importantly, Aprocoagrosh has promised to ONLY reserve operating costs from received coffee prices, meaning more of these improved prices will go directly to the producers. For coffee producers in this remote area of Huila, this very well mean insuring a future in coffee their children....which is something Mercanta is proud to help support.