Bolstering Resilience: Changing the Gamefor Colombian Coffee Producers

As the global coffee industry continues to evolve, producers around the world have been pivoting to access new markets and higher income. It is therefore no wonder specialty coffee is a highly sought-after commodity now.

The CFC recently committed to provide trade financing support to Clearpath Coffee, Colombia. This follows a request, received by the CFC through the Open Call for Proposals.

Specialty coffee, often certified and organic, enables producers to sell under proprietary brands at higher prices, attracting customers seeking unique products. Despite climate challenges, the higher margins from these sales support investment in climate-resilient practices, enhancing coffee quality and producers’ incomes. Colombia’s Clearpath Coffee, founded in 2016, exemplifies excellence in the specialty coffee industry, focusing on transparency and ethical sourcing of high-quality, single-origin Colombian coffees. It aims to impact rural Colombian communities positively, supporting smallholder families through direct trade partnerships and ethical practices.

CEO Vicente Mejia emphasizes the potential of specialty coffee to benefit rural Colombian communities, aiming to improve the lives of smallholder families by providing fair incomes and supporting sustainable practices. Clearpath’s approach includes working directly with farmers, promoting environmental stewardship, and community empowerment, addressing challenges like climate change, economic fluctuations, and labor shortages. By eliminating intermediaries, Clearpath ensures farmers receive a fair profit share, investing back into their livelihoods and communities.

Clearpath’s business model partners with Colombian coffee producers for export, supporting the company’s operations in Huila with dry and wet milling facilities. Last year, 242 families chose to sell their coffee to El Puente, a partnership based on trust, fair trade, and sustainable agriculture, processing nearly 2 million kilograms of coffee cherries. A notable achievement is their commitment to water conservation by employing innovative processing methods instead of the traditional washed process, which helped save a remarkable 79,156,000 litres of water, enough to provide for about 680,000 Dutch people for a day. This approach not only ensures a superior coffee product but also fosters longterm, trustworthy relationships with coffeeproducing families, demonstrating a harmonious balance between profit and purpose.

Financing provided by the Common Fund will reduce the working capital financing gap and allow the company to continue with its growth and development plans to increase in purchase orders from clients and the costs increase of coffee production and export logistics.

As the coffee industry grapples with sustainability challenges, El Puente stands out for prioritizing environmentally responsible practices and fostering positive relationships with coffee-producing communities.

Few other challenges

As an exporter of specialty coffee in Colombia, Vicente realized the lack of drying and processing space needed to handle the crop. Improper handling can lead to defects, reducing profitability and forcing producers to sell at a discount. Cash flow issues compound during harvest, requiring reserves for labour and post-harvest expenses.

The financial burden associated with adopting innovative processing methods emerges as a formidable challenge for smallholder farmers. While Colombia has long embraced washed coffees, newer methods like honey, natural, and experimental fermentation, such as co-fermentation, have gained traction.

Clearpath coffee aims to be a commercial ally to the small farmers so that they can access international market. Through fair pricing, logistical support, and capacitybuilding initiatives, they aim to empower farmers to showcase their products on a global scale. With this guidance and support these small farmers can overcome barriers and seize opportunities in the international marketplace, ensuring sustainable growth and prosperity for their communities.

Led by CEO Vicente Mejia, Clearpath Coffee stands as a beacon of hope. By demystifying the supply chain and fostering greater transparency, it empowers consumers to make informed choices that align with their values, embodies the principles of ethical entrepreneurship, proving that profitability and purpose need not be mutually exclusive. As the company continues to evolve, it serves as a reminder that a better world is possible – one cup of coffee at a time. ¢

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