The price of coffee fluctuates massively and is driven by commodity markets through the New York stock exchange. In recent years this price has often dipped to very low levels and has sometimes even dropped below the cost of production for many farmers.
As volatile commodity prices (C price) continue to hover at historically low levels, industry leaders at various points along the supply chain are talking about the need to cushion the people who grow specialty coffees from a price that is driven by the commodity markets.
The need for this shift in approach to pricing was highlighted by research from the 2020 Speciality Coffee Transaction Guide, indicating that prices between 2017/2018 and 2019/2020 went up for lower-grade commodity coffees and fell for speciality coffees.
For example, the average price paid for 80-81.9 scoring coffees purchased in lot sizes greater than 40,000 pounds increased by $0.31/lb, while the median price for 88+ scoring coffees purchased in lot sizes less than 1,000 pounds fell by $0.50/lb.
Many speciality importers and roasters, including Glen Lyon Coffee, are now guaranteeing a minimum price for the speciality coffee they source.
We support farmers and co-operatives in more than 12 countries around the world. We only buy seasonal, 100% traceable speciality coffees that score a minimum of 80 out of 100 on an international scale for their flavours. These speciality arabica beans are typically shade grown at between 1200-2200m above sea level and hand-picked when ripe.
This higher scoring speciality grade coffee commands higher prices on the international market for farmers. We also buy small relatively small quantities which are much more expensive than bigger lots. This is born out by the following research by the 2020 Speciality Coffee Transaction Guide:
More than 50% of the green coffee that we buy is through speciality coffee import companies. We take care to only import our beans through trusted, purpose driven, import partners who are as committed to ethical sourcing as we are.
More than 40% of our coffee is now sourced through direct or assisted trade. Assisted trade may be a more accurate description than direct trade as we work with a local country partner (producer co-operative or exporter) to source our coffee direct from our chosen farm.
We are committed to paying farmers a minimum of $1.80/lb (and usually considerably more than this as is the case of the Bolivian coffee we source) for all our assisted trade green coffee farms, after taking into account the exporters fee. This is significantly higher than both the constantly fluctuating base rate (C Price) for coffee ($1.24/lb on 8/2/2020) as well as the Fairtrade minimum price for coffee ($1.40/lb).
The coffee producing Foresti family from the Sul de Minas region of Brazil are a great example of our assisted trade sourcing approach. In 2019 we made a long-term commitment to buy coffee from the farm Fazenda do Lobo as the base for our signature Red Stag seasonal espresso. The owners wrote this feedback following our visit:
“You can’t imagine how happy my family and I are with the business we have and we look forward to repeating it annually. I would like to take this moment to say that coffee prices in Brazil have not been fair a while and it is difficult for us growers to be recognised for our hard work. Business like this brings financial security for us to face the difficulties and keep fighting annually to produce great coffees and, obviously, work with partners like you.”
A member of the Glen Lyon Coffee Roasters team visits every farm we work with direct to ensure that the working conditions and pay meet acceptable standards. Glen Lyon Coffee will only work with farms that sign up to the following code of conduct: