It’s not a great sign for specialty coffee roasters — or consumers, for that matter — when importing businesses are issuing warnings like this:
Without a dramatic restructuring of the way coffee is priced worldwide, the supply we rely on will look increasingly homogenous, as mass-production and mechanical harvesting becomes the only tenable path.
That foreboding message comes from Oakland’s Royal Coffee and its roasting, education and event business The Crown. It comes as The Crown is preparing to host a public discussion called “Working Towards Transparency: The Specialty Coffee Transaction Guide.” The event, which requires registration, is taking place this Friday, Oct. 25, at The Crown in Oakland (Google map link)
As we have noted on numerous occasions on these virtual pages, the Specialty Coffee Transaction Guide (SCTG) is an evolving document that relies on mountains of purchase contract data from dozens of anonymous donors, virtually all of whom are roasters or importers. Those data can then be presented to provide an alternative price discovery tool for the specialty coffee market — one that eschews the commodities market price (C price) for coffee.
“According to numerous studies in different coffee-producing countries, prices paid for green specialty coffees often do not cover the full cost of production, let alone support thriving livelihoods for farmers and their families,” the recently revised version of the Specialty Coffee Transaction Guide states. “Unless price discovery moves beyond an exclusive reliance on commodity price references, farmers cannot expect these prices to evolve in ways that make them excited about remaining in the industry.”
It’s worth noting that the ICE futures price for December arabica contracts was sitting at a paltry $0.977 per pound, as of this writing.
For the discussion in Oakland, The Crown’s Max Nicholas-Fulmer and Jeri Idso will be joined by SCTG principals Peter Roberts (of Emory University) and Chad Trewick (of Reciprocafe), and by renowned specialty coffee professionals and producer advocates Mayra Orellana-Powell and Luiz Saldanha.
Whetting the appetite for the transparency conversation, The Crown recently released a podcast on a range of sustainability, pricing and market issues, featuring Nicholas-Fulmer and The Crown’s Richard Sandlin and Chris Kornman, along with Counter Culture Coffee‘s Katie Carguilo.
According to The Crown, Friday’s discussion will explore what the SCTG guide is, what it aims to accomplish, and, importantly, what promises it does not make. Find more details here.
Nick Brown is the editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine.