A taste for coffee from Burundi
230 tonnes of coffee beans; that's what we import from Burundi every year. We turn those beans into the coffee blends for our house brands Graindor and Spar. Being able to rely on fixed purchases like that opens up quite a few opportunities for the 27,000 small coffee farmers in Burundi who we work with. This is how we went about it, in five steps.
Step 1: Initial contacts
Buyer Carine Decock was involved in developing the project: "In 2013, we contacted the COCOCA coffee consortium, with a view to building a commercial partnership and sustainable exports. COCOCA was already working with our Collibri Foundation company fund and with the King Baudouin Foundation, who provide technical support on site to a number of members of the consortium. Obviously, that made it easier to develop a network of contacts."
What you need to know about COCOCA:
- A group of coffee cooperatives: a 'union of the Cooperatives of Coffee growers in Burundi'
- Established in 2012
- Four regions in Burundi
- 39 cooperatives
- 27,000 local coffee farmers
- One in-house coffee processing facility
- 15 % of coffee production in Burundi
Step 2: Quality check on site
Efico inspected the quality of the beans and the knowledge and equipment of the farmers on our behalf. The Belgian coffee importer is familiar with coffee from Burundi, making them the ideal choice to carry out extensive checks on site. After local checks were complete, Efico sent a sample of the beans to our coffee roasting facility in Ghislenghien.
Step 3: Testing beans in our coffee roasting facility
Our coffee experts in Ghislenghien got their hands on the beans: they roasted them and carried out all kinds of tests. And the verdict? The quality and the taste characteristics were comparable with those of the Burundi arabica, which has been used for years in the Graindor blends. So, having received answers to all our questions, we immediately came to an agreement.
Because not all the 39 members of COCOCA cultivate coffee in accordance with (the same) international certification methods like Fairtrade, BIO, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ, we initially only imported beans from the cooperatives certified by UTZ.
Step 4: 12 containers per year
Now we buy all the beans from Burundi for our coffee blends from COCOCA. That adds up to 230 tonnes or 12 full containers every year. In agreement with the farmers, we decided on a fixed price in 2017. This gives the farmers a set income and means they don't have to sell their beans for a lower price. They also get a specific premium per tonne of coffee beans, irrespective of price fluctuations on the market.
"We want producers to receive the financial resources, so they can guarantee and keep developing the quality of their export coffee", explains Philippe Toussaint, manager sustainable sourcing. "We can help them, for example, by aiming for even better-quality beans. That means they can raise their sales price. They also have easier access to prefinancing and loans because we regularly buy a fixed volume of coffee beans. In other words, more financial leeway. Then they can boost their quality even further and earn more in the long term."
With this initiative, we contribute to the following Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.