On September 20-23 in balmy Cartagena, Colombia, 236 people from throughout the coffee supply chain united for Let’s Talk Coffee® Global, the conference organized by Sustainable Harvest® Coffee Importers that brings together coffee farmers, roasters, NGOs, financiers, and a range of other stakeholders to connect as a supply chain, learn from each other, and strategize solutions to the challenges facing the coffee industry.
The connection provided by Let’s Talk Coffee® is needed more than ever right now, in what is a challenging time for coffee farmers around the world. C-market prices are hovering around $1 a pound, which is far below the cost of production for most farmers. To compound that, the effects of climate change continue to provide additional challenges in coffee-producing communities, from an increase in diseases like coffee leaf rust to fluctuating weather patterns affecting production.
The Let’s Talk Coffee® conference addressed these issues and more in an information-packed three-day program that focused on ‘New Models for Success,’ covering topics including:
-Low global coffee prices, with experts like Albert Scalla of INTL FCStone and James Hoffmann of Square Mile Coffee presenting, respectively, about the current coffee price landscape and how to approach coffee buying in novel ways that share more risk.
-The effects of climate change, with the members of Colombia’s ASOANEI cooperative sharing their holistic, earth-focused approach to valuing the planet, and Sustainable Harvest® and the Inter-American Development Bank announcing a comprehensive new program in Southern Mexico to help smallholder farmers increase their profitability and resilience in the face of climate change.
-Innovation in the supply chain through exploring the use of blockchain, with Dutch NGO Progreso unveiling its blockchain-backed Beyco trading platform, and featuring the latest technology in coffee brewing and roasting pushing the industry forward.
Demonstrating leadership amid the challenges in coffee, with a panel of trailblazing leaders including reigning World Barista Champion Agnieszka Rojewska, Olga Cuellar Gomez of S&D Coffee & Tea, and Colombian coffee farmers Sandra Palacios and Maria Reyes discussing the importance of collaboration and shared goals in the face of industry challenges.
In addition to the program, Let’s Talk Coffee® 2018 featured cuppings that showcased the latest and greatest coffees from the Relationship Coffee supply chain, providing an opportunity for roasters and growers to calibrate together. Many attendees also got a taste of origin through visits to Colombian coffee farms, with one group heading to the emerging region of Huila and another traveling to the picturesque Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta region.
At Let’s Talk Coffee® 2018, producers and other stakeholders didn’t just connect and learn together, they also took part in conversations that could lead to positive change in the coffee sphere. To that end, Sustainable Harvest® President Liam Brody posed a challenge to all attendees: Each day, he asked them to write on a Post-In note one action they would take to improve the coffee industry, transforming conversations into definable actions. By the end of the conference, the Post-It notes took up large portions of the hallway, illustrating the tangible difference the supply chain can make when working together.
“It’s extremely valuable to come together as a supply chain to have conversations about the future of our industry,” says Brody. “But it’s even more impactful to turn those conversations into meaningful actions we can each take now to create a brighter future for everyone in coffee. I think attendees left with a higher sense of purpose because taking action was a core element of this year’s Let’s Talk Coffee.”
For more on Let’s Talk Coffee® 2018—including the event recap video, photos, media coverage, and video of the presentations—visit letstalkcoffee.org.
Also, coffee professionals can save the date for the next LTC event, Let’s Talk Coffee® Rwanda, taking place June 17-19, 2019 in Kigali, Rwanda!