Transparency, business as usual.
We delayed the release of our first annual report due to the pandemic. That old thing! We needed to hunker down on business critical operations, but wanted to reflect on where we've come in the communication of transparency.
In August 2018, we began publishing the FOB & Farmgate pricing for every coffee we released, even our blends. We're a small team, and altered our operations to make transparency a key part of our business.
Why an Open Book Policy?
So, why did we start publishing the price we pay producers? We, well, Mark (co-owner & a say-it-how-it-is kinda guy), didn't want 'specialty coffee' to be included in our branding anymore. Specialty was more associated with espresso machine brands and minimal fit outs, rather than the quality grade of coffee, and most importantly, pricing to match that quality. Mark reckoned 'specialty is dead.' In 2018-2019 commodity prices reached drastically low prices. Farmers, producing both speciality & commodity coffee, were faced with prices that were lower than their cost of production.
Prices so low that producers left their land, changed crops, and seasonal pickers migrated. The Washington Post wrote about the direct link between the low commodity prices, and the mass exodus of people from Central America into the US.
Roasting is Subjective, Transparency is Clear
Going transparent has been the medium for us to say 'we believe in the future of coffee.' A future which acknowledges growers financially for their efforts & expertise, and moves coffee production away from a global market, traded on speculation. That producers and workers should be paid a profitable price for their labour that is not dictated by big harvest in Brazil, or an exchange market.
Certainly, trading is complex and we don’t want to minimise that complexity by applying blanket rules. We joined Transparent Trade Coffee to enable defined language around true transparency.
The Global Push
As part of the 2018 Transparent Trade Colloquium, which Seven Seeds was a member of, a group of like-minded coffee companies wanted to commit to a defined language around true transparency. On top of the publishing requirements of FOB, Lot Size, Length of Relationship & Quality Score, Seven Seeds also states the Farmgate price, where possible.
Read about our commitment and who we've banded together with around the world. The latest meeting with the Transparent Trade had a lot of content around blockchain technology.
Can We Do Better?
Yes! We're working towards a sustainable viable pricing benchmark by region. It's a complex task, and we'll take advice from country-based coffee exporters to determine this. Azahar Coffee, based in Colombia, released guidelines of pricing which defines minimum wage versus profitable pricing. This is something we can reference when purchasing coffee. Other countries, where the trading model is garden farming, is more difficult to arrive at a sustainable, viable price.
However, the latest meeting with the Transparent Trade group referenced the progress in blockchain technology for agriculture contracts.
Until then, here's to the future of coffee.