At the end of 2016, we launched a project in the Copan region of Honduras, in collaboration with a small coop – Aruco – where Falcon supplied training, technical support and expertise. The project was focused on producing high quality microlots at a centralised mill, giving small producers access to specialty markets and quality price premiums. 25 small producers, with farms ranging in size between 1 and 5 hectares, were supported in the production of these microlots.
Key areas of improvement were in cherry selection and picking, processing and drying. Ripe cherry selection is key to producing quality coffee, and the standard in Honduras is generally quite poor. However, through the development of a microlot picking team shared by the 25 producers, and coordinating pickings based on brix readings, we were able to increase the percentage of ripe cherries picked from 55% to 85%. Cherries were delivered to a centralised mill, where we could control quality, processing and drying. A grading system was established at the mill, so lots could be rated and producers paid a different price for the quality of cherry selection. A cleaning team would then pass over the cherries, refining the selection to increase the final ripe cherry proportion to over 95% for all microlots. Falcon provided training for the technical staff at the mill on a range of processing methods, and how to use the solar driers to control drying time and temperature in order to maintain quality and longevity. We created a set of documents to record processing, drying and tractability data, including brix readings, picking date, drying time, fermentation time and temperature etc.. This data can be reviewed in relation to cup scores and longevity over a number of years, in order to better understand the effect of different variables on quality over time.
In addition, producers were provided financial support, with a number of different financial packages, allowing them to cover the additional costs of picking only ripe cherries, and to manage their cash flow, but still receive all of their premiums at the end of the harvest when the final price was determined through cup score. We pre-contracted a given volume of microlots, which allowed Aruco to front the cash and manage the risk across the supply chain.
This project resulted in an additional $60,840 being paid for the coffee (on top of the FTO market price at the time of purchase) in quality premiums to the 25 producers that took part in this project. The cup scores on all lots from these producers improved by an average of 3.45 points, based on SCAA cupping standards.