(Portland, Oregon - March 13, 2006) - Sustainable Harvest Coffee, a Portland, Oregon-based specialty coffee importing company, has announced that it is opening a second Relationship Coffee Division called Sustainable Origins South America (SOSA). “The addition of our South America office in Lima, Peru demonstrates our strong commitment to build the industry’s best coffee business relationships at the source,” says David Griswold, Founder and President of Sustainable Harvest. “Our special supply chain focus on traceability, transparency and training sets our “Relationship Coffee” approach apart from the others,” adds Griswold. Sustainable Harvest’s first Relationship Coffee Division was established in Oaxaca, Mexico in 2002.
The SOSA operation will serve as an important training facility where organic, fair trade growers from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, and Bolivia can meet face-to-face with their roaster customers during their regular visits. Sustainable Harvest is particularly unique because of its commitment to reinvesting 50% of the company’s budget into farmer training and grower relations. Sustainable Harvest’s offices at origin provide a number of unique importer services to its suppliers such as agricultural and business training, marketing support, access to new markets and links to pre-harvest crop financing.
"The staff at our Division offices work full time for Sustainable Harvest, which gives us more focus for supporting our supply network of fair trade organic grower groups," says Jorge Cuevas, Director of Supply Relations for Sustainable Origins/Mexico & Central America. They serve our roaster customers well, and provide growers with education and training on how to access the higher paying organic fair trade markets," says Cuevas.
One goal of the training at SOSA is to educate growers on how to improve coffee quality and secure access to the higher paying organic fair trade markets. The SOSA office is equipped with a “cupping” laboratory that will help ensure quality and consistency, and will train grower representatives on the key attributes of taste that roasters and their North American retail customers are looking for. The lab will also function as a quality control center, where crop samples from all over South America will be tested and then only the very best will be forwarded to customers.
The office will also serve as a launching point for SOSA’s bilingual staff to travel with roasters to meetings with cooperatives and growers in the field, where they provide both translation and coffee expertise. In addition, the SOSA staff will perform a traditional product search and scouting function and will travel frequently to remote South American coffee growing areas to introduce the Sustainable Harvest "Relationship Coffee" model to new grower groups, most of which have never had an opportunity to have a direct and transparent relationship with North American coffee roasters. The staff will also have a critical logistics role in helping suppliers troubleshoot problems that can often occur getting coffee from the farm gate to the shipping port.
Two coffee industry experts, Claudia Aleman and Oscar Gonzales, have been hired to staff the SOSA office in Peru. Claudia Aleman, the Relationship Coffee Manager for SOSA, has significant coffee grower co-op organizing experience. During the past 6 years in Peru, she has worked on improving the competitive conditions of small producers and their cooperative organizations. Most recently she was a consultant for the Peru government on a World Bank funded project to help increase competitiveness among small farmers in various agricultural products. "Small farm producers have shown me that they can focus on quality, on taking care of the environment, and on improving their standard of living," says Claudia Aleman. "The Relationship Coffee model has also proven to be successful in these areas, and therefore, it’s important to me to spread the knowledge of how to create a successful Relationship Coffee program by introducing it to many new producers throughout South America," she adds.
Also joining the Peru office is Oscar Gonzales, who will serve as Supply Director for SOSA. Oscar has more than 10 years of experience in the coffee industry working with cooperatives and small-holder farmers. His role will be to coordinate a growing network of fair trade organic suppliers and to train them on key quality principles. Oscar will frequently travel to coffee producing regions to help communicate the quality needs of the U.S. market, as well as to search for new high-quality coffee sourcing opportunities throughout Latin America.
"Oscar and Claudia are two people who will help our customers get better connected to their supply chain through the Relationship Coffee model," says Cuevas. "Our company's focus on transparency and traceability functions best when you have the right people who know exactly what our customers are seeking, he adds. Oscar and Claudia are those people, and we look forward to seeing how they can help us secure high quality organic fair trade coffees, especially as market supplies begin to tighten, says Cuevas.
Sustainable Harvest was recently bestowed the 2006 Sustainability Award by the Specialty Coffee Association of America in recognition that the Relationship Coffee model has set a new standard in the industry by promoting long-term partnerships and greater transparency between producer groups and roasters. Relationship Coffee is based on: quality control training; full transparency of all business practices, price and quality information; traceability of the coffee from cooperative to cup; and pre-trade financing. For more information, please visit www.sustainableharvest.com.