Over the last six months, news of the Latin American Roya crisis has slowly made its way through the coffee supply chain. The closer you are to origin, the more familiar the story: Governments declaring states of emergency; crop damage of up to 30–70% with particularly heavy losses in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador; Casualty of more than 500,000 coffee related jobs leading to concerns regarding social unrest. The latter was demonstrated just last week when independent coffee farmers in Peru organized a strike demanding forgiveness of debts and government-funded renovation to address the impact of Roya. Although short-lived (the strike lasted two days) the resulting road blockage had a significant impact on travel and movement of goods, including coffee headed to market.
But the story is not just about the impact at origin. This year’s Roya crisis will have a lasting impact on everyone involved in the coffee supply chain. As we saw in Peru, governments are under pressure to support relief efforts via financing for renovation, debt reduction, or strengthening social safety nets. NGOs are seeking ways to scale food security and income diversity programs. Banks and other financiers are looking at new risk management strategies. For roasters and retailers, quality is as much an issue as supply – both of which have significant influence on product development, packaging, and pricing.
In early April, Sustainable Harvest launched the Roya Recovery Project with the goal of getting the most credible and useful information in the hands of Roya-affected farmers and co-op leaders to enable them to make educated decisions on how to best mitigate the longterm impact of the disease. The information is intended to be applicable to all producers, but places a particular emphasis on solutions for organic farmers who cannot adopt conventional, chemical-based treatment solutions.
The first deliverable under the Roya Recovery Project was the Roya Recovery Toolkit – a manual and DVD that aggregates insight and recommendations from the most credible sources in the Central American coffee industry. Our goal is to work with industry partners to get the content in the hands of as many farmers as possible. Already, we’ve received tremendous support from Birdrock, Café Moto, Café Mystique, Dillanos, and Green Mountain who either helped fund the development of the toolkit or who have purchased copies for distribution.
But working with farmers only helps address half the problem. As the Relationship Coffee Model demonstrates, the power is in connecting farmers with those on the other end of the supply chain to establish transparency and common understanding.
This what we are seeking to accomplish at Let’s Talk Roya– an open event for everyone across the global coffee supply chain with an interest in addressing the short– and long– term implications of Roya. Held November 3–6 at the Royal Decameron in El Salvador, the event will leverage the Let’s Talk Coffee® model of bringing coffee supply chain stakeholders together for direct conversations and collaborative problem-solving.
Of particular interest to roasters and retailers will be a unique opportunity to join others to detect and discuss Roya’s impact on taste and quality through a series of cupping sessions. We see this expectation-setting as critical in the conversations between suppliers, certifiers and roasters relative to market opportunity over the next two to three years. The event will also feature farm trips where participants can witness the impacts of climate change on coffee farms firsthand.
Here at Sustainable Harvest, we believe Let’s Talk Roya will bridge the information gap between producers and roasters and create the foundation for collaborative problem solving around the Roya challenge. With this mutual understanding, collaboration can flourish, ideas can spark, and a unified recovery canbe a reality. With Let’s Talk Roya, the ongoing Roya Recovery Project, Sustainable Harvest, and our partners aim to overcome the challenges of Roya and climate change in the long-term, strengthening the resiliency of the supply chain that Relationship Coffee is founded on. From there, we can continue to innovate, transforming the standard for responsible, quality sourcing.
Join us at Let’s Talk Roya. November 3–6, 3013 in El Salvador. More information about the event, including registration can be found at