Reflections from the 2019 SCA Coffee Expo

By: Juan Pablo Solís. SAFE Platform Manager

The week before Easter, amidst the famous Boston Marathon, the #CoffeeExpo2019 took place.

Coffee sector conferences are a great space to discuss sustainability, do business, and extend network contacts. Nonetheless, this year, the SCA conference gravitated toward one topic: prices. Given the C-Price on Friday, April 12 (during the Conference) plummeting to $0.90/lb, it is clear why this was such an important topic.

Many opinions were expressed regarding this situation. The CLAC and the SPP called for organizations to honor fair commercial relationships and establish a price in their contracts that at least covered production costs. One keyword rose above the rest: dignity.

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The different waves in the industry have brought diverse solutions. We must remember that this is not the first time international prices have caused a crisis in the industry[1]. The need for systemic approaches was evident. Differentiation is an alternative, but it remains a single solution. It will not solve the macroeconomic crisis the sector is currently facing.

Participating in the Coffee Expo also helped us realize how joining forces is a necessity in order to make the most of our potential and accumulated knowledge. We do not need to reinvent the wheel… or maybe we do. What we must do is look at the phenomenon under another lens; one that is more innovative and that looks beyond our own value chains and benefits. Technological advances help us amplify our scope. Topics such as climate change, living income, and transparency in commercial relations are easier to analyze thanks to satellite data analysis, blockchain, and big data. Ag-tech is here to stay. It is our obligation to work toward reducing technological gaps.

Innovation must not be seen only as technology in itself. We should remember that innovation might manifest as a new product, but also through positioning new topics in the agenda, tackling existing issues in a different way, structuring new processes, or completely changing paradigms. In regards to the price situation, it is clear that we need to change our paradigm and refocus our work toward fairer and more sustainable sourcing models. By this, we do not insinuate the idea of leaving the C Market, but instead, of finding structural and long lasting solutions.

The call to action has been raised. Now, as industry actors, we must act… and soon!

[1] https://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2018/09/what-should-we-have-learned-from-the-2001-coffee-price-crisis/

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Juan Pablo Solís