Sustainable coffee taking center stage at Taipei fair

Yesterday at the Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center, coffee producers from Central America and Indonesia dominated the Taiwan International Coffee Show, sending a strong message that small-scale farmers and their families rely on sustainable supply chains.

“For every five dollars earned by some large brands, the farmer receives only one cent. As you might imagine, it’s an unfair game,” Elias Rivera, founder and CEO of Zircle Coffee, told the Central News Agency.

His company promotes sustainable supply chains in his native Honduras by partnering with small farmers and purchasing coffee beans at a premium of 10% to 20% over market prices, Rivera explained.

Zircle Coffee purchases at a premium price because Rivera has witnessed large coffee brands and intermediaries exploit smaller farmers, who are vulnerable due to a lack of information about the market value of their product.

“We’re attempting to establish long-term relationships with farmers. They are the most important people, but they receive the least,” he explained.

Rivera was not the only industry representative among the 230 exhibitors manning 820 booths at the annual show’s 19th edition, which began on Friday and concludes today.

Alvaro Lopez of JAK International Trade Co, a Guatemalan coffee importer, stated that one of the larger farms with which he works supports four schools, two hospitals, and an apartment complex where its employees live rent-free.

Programs that provide free basic education and scholarships for higher education to farmers’ children are significant because they ensure that children do not spend their childhoods working on farms, he explained.

“Sometimes children prefer to assist their parents on their farm in order to increase their profits, but we prefer that the children attend school and learn skills. If the children wish to become farmers in the future, that is wonderful, but at the very least they will have tools to improve their lives,” Lopez said.

JAK also purchases from family farms that would not have access to the international market without JAK, he explained.

“It is critical to have that relationship with the farmer rather than the businessman who is in the office and may not even understand how the coffee is processed,” Lopez explained.

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