Social Good Builds Strong Colombian Cooperative

To optimize Canada’s contribution to the Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, TFO Canada hosted an organic trade mission to Canada, to help Colombian small and medium sized businesses become export ready. This mission was part of a Trade Partners Responsive Facility (TPRF) project in partnership with EQ Foundation and URBACAN. The goal of the trade promotion activities was to reduce poverty and gender inequality, while increasing sustainable development. Juan Carlos Garcia, Cooperative Director of Caficosta, a Colombia coffee cooperative, got the opportunity to be a part of the trade mission to Canada, where he visited Montreal and Toronto in November 2016.

CaficostaJuan Carlos Garcia understands that making powerful connections is hard work. He recognizes that, with a trusted connector, things can happen very quickly. Through TFO Canada’s project, Caficosta strengthened its relationship with a Montréal based coffee company by having a scheduled face-to-face meeting. The meeting with the client helped the cooperative to understand and comply with the client’s needs, which translated into an order of 18 containers of organic and fair trade coffee, valued at USD $1,072,500. Caficosta Cooperative represents 2,600 small producers, 600 of which are female producers.

TFO Canada understands that when people can help themselves, the world benefits. And that it is important for both men and women to get the same opportunities to lift themselves out of poverty. One of the big challenges that small and medium-sized Colombian businesses face, is the lack of market intelligence on the Canadian import market. Additionally, although they know that organic products are important, producers do not understand the certification process, and the value-added gains of certified organic production.

To ensure that the small and medium Colombian producers succeed on the trade mission, the organizers scheduled 150 meetings. According to Juan Carlos Garcia, “The project helped me to understand what the clients expect from our products. They want ‘cup quality’ and continuous supply, besides the organic and fair trade certification.”

Because of the project, Juan Carlos Garcia discovered that there is also a market for organic cocoa in Canada, another product the cooperative grows. Additionally, the Cooperative is now working with the producers to improve the quality of their products, so that they meet Canadian standards.

Although Caficosta made a substantial sale with Canadian buyers, it’s never just about profits — people matter. “Fifty cents of USD dollar per pound of coffee is returned to the producer in the following way: 30 cents, which is the “primar organica” goes directly to the producer, and 20 cents, which is the fair trade prima, is administered by the cooperative to implement social programs for the producers.”

Caficosta Cooperative has a very strong social responsibility program which benefit their producers. They provide life insurance for the producers, and there are thirty-six children of producers on full scholarships to study in major universities in Colombia. Also they have partnerships with fertilizer suppliers that do soil analysis, which doesn’t cost the coffee growers. Lastly they also offer Service Credits to coffee growers who meet specific requirements.