Covid-19 and Coffee: thank you for helping us support farming communities

Covid-19 and Coffee: thank you for helping us support farming communities

Covid-19 and Coffee: thank you for helping us support farming communities

Posted on 16-04-2020
By Lydia

Find a blog:

Find a blog:

Filter by:

Everyone’s had to find a new way to ‘be’ lately - including businesses. Some companies have closed temporarily or furloughed their staff, others have quickly changed what services or products they offer or how they offer them - from breweries turning to hand gel production and restaurants embracing delivery options, to high street indie stores working together to offer food boxes.

All these adjustments are partly to stop businesses from dying, and 1000s of people losing their jobs. But it’s also so customers can keep getting the products they need and want - keeping life as normal as possible.

It’s easy to stop there, but what about the people at the other end of the supply chain? Nothing exists in a vacuum. One company ceasing to trade can affect so many more people than employees of the company itself. As our supply chain is 100% transparent, we know more than most about the importance of carrying on selling coffee - for our customers’ sakes, of course, but crucially for the coffee farmers we buy from too.

Will and a farmer looking at the view

Thank you for choosing Pact Coffee

Really, thank you. There are a lot of options when it comes to coffee companies. But by choosing to buy from us, you help to ensure the safety and security of farmers all around the world.

How? Well, we can only pay farmers the premium we do because you go for quality beans… instead of big jars of instant. Nothing against those, per se. But opting for 100% traceable, high quality coffee means you know the grower is getting the payment they deserve.

Because you keep choosing Pact Coffee, we can keep supporting farmers financially - buying their coffee now (sooner than usual) so they have money in the bank for when they really, really need it.

Our commitment to coffee farmers and customers

We’re motivated by two things: keeping you stocked up in coffee (as the small pleasures are currently more important than ever!), and following through on our promise to keep buying from farmers.

The impact of Covid-19 is reported to be relatively minimal in many coffee-sourcing continents (namely South and Central America, and Africa), with a low number of cases. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that countries in these regions have less access to testing, which worryingly means less access to medical care and resources, should the virus spread. It’s now thought that cases may be being drastically under-reported.

For this reason, many governments in coffee-sourcing countries are enforcing lockdown procedures already - because due to their infrastructure and rurality, the impact of coronavirus would be catastrophic.

Thankfully for farmers (and us), coffee exporting is one industry governments are keeping going - as it’s such a key part of their economy. The industry is being protected to support farmers, and we want to keep supporting them, too.

Adjusting our business practices to keep afloat, and continuing to buy coffee from farmers, is essential. If we didn’t, many of them would lose a major part of their income. And that’s exactly why, unlike some companies, we never have exclusivity contracts with partnering farmers. Their livelihood shouldn’t be dependent on our business, just supported by it.

Cupping in Rwanda

Different countries, different approaches

No two coffee-producing countries are exactly alike. In fact, many are miles apart - geographically, of course, but also culturally and economically. That means, when mitigating the potential effects of coronavirus on coffee sourcing, we have to adapt to each situation.

In Honduras… courier services are closed. That means where we’d normally get a sample of the latest crop sent to us to quality check, we can’t. So we’re having to get the main order shipped over to our roastery without our usual assurances of quality, which we’re committed to doing so we can keep paying farmers above the Fairtrade base price.

So we… are relying on our 8-year-long relationship with these farmers, and our close ties with Rony (who works in coffee exporting), to ensure we’re still receiving the highest quality coffee possible for you to buy - with Rony and our Head of Coffee Will comparing notes on cupping sessions, from 1000s of miles away. All to ensure a sale for those farmers.

In Colombia… The next coffees are ready to ship out to us, which would normally happen in a couple of months. The trouble is, Colombia is vast and largely under quarantine. The coffee supply chain is still up and running… but not much else is. That means for all the truck drivers transporting beans from farm to port, there are no hotels to stay in or restaurants/cafés to feed them. They’re literally sleeping in their trucks to get coffee out of the country, and it means delays.

So we… have shifted all our deadlines much earlier, getting the coffee on its journey across the country long before we normally would, to make sure it arrives in the roastery on time - so you don’t miss out on your normal selection of delicious Colombian beans!

In Guatemala… they’re awaiting our verdict on the batch of coffees we just cupped. Normally we wouldn’t buy the chosen coffees, let alone get them shipped out for a while yet. But we want to put the farmers we buy from in as secure a position as possible, as soon as possible.

So we… have decided to buy and ship coffees immediately, drastically ahead of schedule. It costs us more in interest and storage, but it means farming families are more secure in case the worst happens.

In Kenya… individual counties have been locked down, but reported cases are low so coffee mills are still open. The way the coronavirus situation affects sourcing here is in a practical sense. Usually, Head of Coffee Will heads over there and spends a while trying up to 600 individual coffees, seeking out the best of the best. (What a buzz!)

So we… have had to adapt our sourcing habits. As it’s not possible to get over there, Will’s getting 20-30 of the best samples - chosen by trusted friends and business partners in Kenya - sent directly to him instead, to try in his garden shed. That means you’ll still have the very best of Kenyan coffee to enjoy (and Will still gets his buzz)!

In Rwanda… things are a little more complicated. Picking season is about to kick off - which is a tricky one as it’s a people-heavy, labour-intensive task that’s hard to carry out under lockdown. It’s going to have a big impact on what is one of the poorer coffee-producing countries.

So we… are committing to keep buying in volume, maybe not even getting to taste the coffees first - so the farmers we buy from can get through the new restrictions, and keep growing coffee safely. We trust their commitment to quality that much.

Coffee farming community in Colombia

Thanks for understanding when things go a little wrong

We’re adapting as necessary so farmers don’t fall into a dire situation - if farmers in the poorer, more rural coffee-producing countries get sick, they need all the resources they can to access medical care.

But we’re also doing this so we can keep selling to you. It means doing everything we can to stick to the same standards of quality. The same standards of traceability. The same prices on your end. And it’s only possible because of your support. So thank you!

We’re aware that things might be more likely to go a little wrong lately. Maybe your order arrives later than normal, or you’re missing a coffee card, or things just go a bit skew-whiff. Thank you for understanding that we’re trying to keep things running as smoothly as possible - despite Royal Mail delays or our trade partners experiencing difficulties.

And just know that - when your coffee does arrive - not only will it taste delicious, it’ll mean life is a little easier for a family thousands of miles away. Thank you.