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Lutheran World Relief, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Fair Trade USA Strengthen Relationships with Smallholder Farmers through International Coffee Forum in Indonesia
Baltimore, November 21, 2013 — More than 100 members of the Sumatran coffee supply chain gathered in Medan, Indonesia, last month for Temu Kupi Sumatra 2013 — an international coffee forum hosted by Lutheran World Relief (LWR), Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) and Fair Trade USA (FT USA). At the three-day event, smallholder coffee farmers sat side-by-side with representatives from international coffee corporations and leaders in the Sumatran coffee community to discuss the most pressing issues in local coffee production today.
In an effort to better connect members of the supply chain directly to farmers, LWR hosted a panel entitled “The Producers’ Perspective – Coffee Production on the Farm,” bringing together farmers, exporters, importers, government officials, private sector representatives, financial service providers and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to discuss issues of most importance to farmers at the local level and ways to improve conditions for those who grow coffee.
In addition to a day of events hosted by LWR— including sessions on business negotiations and risk management, credit and financing for cooperatives, traceability, the role of NGOs, environmental challenges to production, coffee certification and the current global context — GMCR held two days of meetings as a part of their international series of Intercambio events with members of the company’s supply chain. Along with presentations by GMCR and FT USA staff on business strategy, event attendees had the opportunity to participate in cupping calibration sessions, during which testers formally evaluated coffee quality using sensory criteria, to better understand GMCR’s quality expectations.
Indonesia is the fourth largest producer of coffee in the world, according to the Specialty Coffee Association of Indonesia (SCAI), exporting approximately 300,000 tons of coffee in 2012. An estimated 90 percent of the coffee Indonesia exports is grown by smallholder farmers who farm on one hectare or less of land, according to SCAI. Exporters are particularly interested in coffee from Indonesia’s island of Sumatra as the coffee has a popular flavor profile, particularly suited for the U.S. market, and is used in many house coffee blends.
In the areas where LWR works in Sumatra, most farmers depend on coffee as their sole or primary source of household income. While Sumatra’s Gayo Region is recognized globally for the market potential of its high quality, organically grown Arabica coffee, organizational and technical issues have limited coffee cooperatives’ ability to take full advantage of the international coffee market. In addition, many coffee farmers lack the skills and resources to improve on-farm cultivation practices, resulting in low yields and limited income. However, with support of FT USA, LWR is implementing a project to strengthen the ability of coffee cooperatives and farmers to improve coffee productivity and quality, as well as to increase access to markets.
Joanne Fairley, LWR’s Regional Director for Asia & the Middle East noted, “Temu Kupi Sumatra gave LWR, GMCR and FT USA the opportunity to convene a diverse range of participants up and down the Sumatran coffee supply chain. The event allowed for an open dialogue on the greatest challenges and successes faced by those working in this sector. It was amazing to see smallholder farmers sit at the same table as international buyers and discuss issues of importance to them. Everyone who participated in the event used it as an opportunity to listen and learn, which will no doubt allow participants to have a deeper understanding of how many people’s livelihoods depend on coffee.”
LWR hopes to build off the success of this event through its continued work in improving the livelihoods of smallholder coffee farmers and strengthening coffee cooperatives in Indonesia. More information about LWR’s global work in coffee production is available here.