In 2019, Pachamama President and PRODECOOP General Manager, Merling Preza, spoke at the Speciality Coffee Association’s Re:co Speciality Coffee Symposium. She sat down with Kim Elena Ionescu of the SCA and discussed the role cooperatives play in the resilience of the specialty coffee sector.
Merling stated, PRODECOOP was “born to commercialize the coffee of our associates, but the main goal was the people. To contribute to improve the lives of our partners. You call it sustainability now, you can call it however you want, but we wanted to work for a clean environment. At that time the issue was not price, it was our water, and it was our climate conditions.”
“It’s not about paying more, it’s about paying what it is worth.
PRODECOOP, like many other cooperatives, was born out of the necessity to bring more of the value of coffee back to the producers. While there is a lot of money in the coffee industry, only about 10% of it returns to the country of origin, and even less makes it back to the small scale farmers. With increasing effects of climate change on the environment and low prices, many producers are finding it harder and harder to stay on the farm.
To produce high quality coffee the “costs of production are higher. We commit to good agricultural practices, but doing so is now more expensive. Climate change is affecting us more. We once produced coffee in a much better environment, with stable rains, under the right conditions, and now we face challenges with coffee leaf rust, with uncertainty around rain, or with what we can or can’t use. "
"Its not about paying more, its about paying what its worth. So the service to the industry that we [Cooperatives] can give, is that we guarantee the traceability of our products, we keep improving our processes, we guarantee the transparent income to the producers, and all the general certifications that require processes.”
We are proud to call Merling our President and to work for PRODECOOP and the four other member cooperatives of Pachamama to pursue an equitable and sustainable future of coffee. With ownership, producers are able to combat things like climate change, price instability and lack of finance. Ceo and Co-founder, Thaleon Tremain, also notes, “Co-operatives are true stakeholder business models that empower people with ownership and democratic governance. This can create a path towards financial independence for communities at the base of the economic pyramid.”
By purchasing directly from farmers, whether that be your daily cup of coffee or vegetables from your neighborhood farmers market, you are putting money back into the hands of producers. By supporting cooperatives like Merling's you enable farmers to stay on the farm, to invest in their communities and to fight against effects of climate change. Together we can pursue a more equitable and sustainable future for coffee.