Eli Espinoza is the owner of 4 hectares of coffee in the village of las Pirias in Chirinos. Elí has a few parcels of land spread across the mountain, some planted mostly with typica, others with caturra and bourbon and one small area of Icatu. Elí processes all his coffee at his house, which sits at 1800masl and his farms are all between 1800 and 2000masl.
Chirinos has been recognised in recent years as having some of the best coffees in all of Peru, due to its ideal growing conditions and slightly more investment in increasing quality. Elí is one of the new wave of coffee producers in Northern Peru, he came to the area as a teenager looking for work on farms, and he started out picking coffee in the village. After a while he was able to buy his own land, a house and starting working to produce his own coffee. He and a group of his friends are all young and dynamic and have the same ambition, to produce high quality coffee and make agriculture a viable livelihood. Until this year, Elí had been selling all of his coffee to local aggregators and had been getting paid less than the market rate. Despite the very low prices, Elí has continued investing in his farm and trying to raise his quality, with raised beds, selective picking and slow drying. Thankfully his persistence paid off and this year he has more than doubled his household income. His coffee is continuing to improve and no doubt will get even better next year with further investment and technical support.
We have been working in Northern Peru for several years, buying specialty coffee from cooperatives and associations with whom we have built lasting relationships. This is the conventional way of sourcing in Peru and gives farmers associated with these groups some stability. Whilst a lot of the arrival quality in previous season has been good, we struggled to impact upon that quality or make improvements in the supply chain as we would like. More importantly, the premiums we had been paying for quality rarely makes it back to producers in the same, something we have had very little control over in previous years. In Peru, like some other origins, many coffee farmers are For these reasons we decided we needed to change the way we buy coffee in Peru, and work directly with producers, to be able to control and improve the quality and have full financial traceability. In order to do this, we set up a warehouse in Jaen and started to buy in parchment directly from producers.
The Cajamarca region holds a lot of potential for quality coffee, with ideal growing conditions and great varieties, but quality is often lost in picking, processing and drying, with producers lacking infrastructure and knowledge. The most vulnerable producers are those that are unassociated, who aren’t members of a cooperative, association or organisation, and they represent 75% of producers in Northern Peru. These producers don’t have access to training sessions or premiums for quality or certifications, and their income is totally dependent on the market price. Often, local aggregators, a buyer who lives in the same area, will come to the farm or house of producers and buy coffee their coffee, cash in hand, and then sell it on, in some cases directly to an exporter or more often to other traders and middlemen. This results in the producer being paid very little for their coffee and a lot of quality coffee is lost.
Our field team identified producers and producer groups across Jaen and San Ignacio, who brought their parchment to our warehouse in Jaen, where it was weighed, and a sample taken from each bag. The green sample is then analysed, and yield is calculated, before it is roasted, cupped and graded. The price is determined by the cupping results and producers are paid in full the same day, with premiums well above the market price, in most cases double. We have over 300 registered farmers, who will all be trained on farm management and picking, processing and drying by our agronomist, Auber Terrones Rojas.
This shift in approach to sourcing will allow us to forge long term relationships directly with farmers, improve the coffee quality and increase producer household income through access to quality premiums.