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3 things you need to know about Mexican coffee

This year, we went on our first origin trip to Mexico. We visited a number of farms, made some new friends and of course tasted some delicious coffees. Beyond that, we also learnt a great deal about the coffee scene there. Some of it absolutely shattered our hearts and we felt we had to share it with you. Here is the top 3 things you need to know about Mexican coffee.

1. Mexico is one of the biggest coffee producing countries.

With an estimated 240,000 metric tonnes of coffee produced in the 2018/2019 season, Mexico is one of the top ten largest coffee-producing countries in the world. This production is expected to increase by 12% - 25% in the upcoming 2019/2020 harvest season. Yet it is an underrepresented origin in many cafes in Singapore.

Finca Chanjul in Mexico
Finca Chanjul, Chiapas, Mexico


2. They are capable of producing exceptionally high quality coffee.

Plagued by the leaf rust (La Roya in Spanish) and coffee price crisis in early 2000's, their production declined dramatically along with quality. But thanks to continued government support and private sector investments, Mexican coffee production has rebounded and is on the rise.

As exemplified by their performance in the Cup of Excellence Auctions, they have consistently produced numerous 90+ scoring lots for the last few years. There is still a lot of untapped potential to be discovered.


3. Mexico has around 500,000 coffee producers. Over two-thirds are smallholder farms with 310,000 working on one hectare or less of land.

Translation: They are very poor.

Big DepulperSmall Depulper
Difference between a big farm vs smallholder farmers.

"During the first months of 2019, average producer prices were $98 dollars per 45/kg bag of Arabica, while cost of production is approximately $140 dollars 45/kg bag." 1

They are literally selling their coffees at losses!

Worse still, from our interviews with the farmers, some of them are not able to calculate their costs. So they don't even know that they are making a loss.

Literally every single farmer we came across were asking us for higher prices. Majority of their next generation has voiced that they do not want to continue the coffee production because it is extremely hard work plus it is not profitable.

How is this sustainable? It's not.
This story is not unique just to Mexico but is prevalent in many coffee-producing countries.



We need to help them. Let's start with Mexico.

My plan:

This is my plan to help and make their coffee production more sustainable.
I'd like to invite you to join me.

The goal: Help the smallholder farmers achieve profitability on their coffee crops.

Key Results:

(Farm Level)

- Instill adequate accounting practices into the farms to record P&L.

- Educate farmers on specialty grade coffee requirements to allow higher prices on coffees sold.

- Provide adequate equipment necessary for achieving specialty grade on their coffee.

(Roaster Level)

The funds for investing in tools and equipment and providing the necessary education needs to come from somewhere.

To help raise funds for this cause, we've decided to allow roasters to opt into an increase for the rental rates at our co-roasting space by $1/hr. The additional money will go to our fund for investing in these farmers.

However, we feel that this might still be too slow and wouldn't impact the thousands of smallholder farmers on a large enough scale. How can we help to create a bigger impact at a faster rate? If you have any ideas, we'd love to hear them! Leave a comment below or email us what you think.

I've also recently cupped some sample coffees from the region. While they are good, they are not the kind of coffee that we'd normally sell at our shop. But wouldn't it be hypocritical of us if we claim to want to help these farmers yet we don't actively buy their coffees and serve them?

So we had the idea to take their coffees and sell them under a different brand. Where we collaborate with other co-roasters at our space to roast this coffee and sell it as a collaboration project. Proceeds would then go into supporting the farmers that we choose to work with. Roasters: are you on board with this? Consumers: Is this a coffee that you would buy? Let us know!

Sources:

USDA Foreign Agriculture Service, Global Agriculture Information Network Report Number MX9020

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