Volcano coffee in Colombia is farmed and produced by members of the Red Associations.
We buy 19 tonnes of their coffee each year, which is used in bespoke blends at restaurants and cafes including The Conduit.
Volcano Coffee Works is a founding member of the Red Associations, which was set up by Raw Material in 2017. In May that year they met with Invercafe (a local Colombian dry mill company) and two coffee producer groups in Pitalito, Huila, to understand what was preventing them from selling in the specialty market, and other challenges they were facing.
These two groups represent almost 300 families, around 660Ha of coffee farmland, and around 1 million kg of coffee production each year. Despite good production levels, income from coffee for these families had dropped to unsustainable levels. With it they faced a crossroad - either find alternative means of income outside coffee, or find a more stable and sustainable market.
Red Associations was set up to help the farmers achieve their self-identified goal of achieving stable and sustainable prices for community coffee lots through improved quality control, shared knowledge, and a connection to the specialty coffee market.
Firstly they implemented a fixed price payment structure, to help solve issues caused by price instability.
The Red Associations project ensures that a fixed price is given to producers for their crops. The minimum that Red Associations producers will receive is set at 1M Colombian pesos per carga (125kg) of coffee produced. In comparison to the daily fluctuating market rate, this fixed price renders on average 2.5x more annual income to a producer.
This price sits above the average fluctuating market and Fairtrade prices, ensuring that we can assist producers by ensuring the stability of returns, that lead into future investment for both the farm and family.
A second payment is also available to a producer based on quality, for example if they are producing a rare variety at the farm, or their farming practices have rendered a higher quality yield. This second payment can have an exponentially large benefit to that producer's income, up to almost ten times the commodity fluctuating rate.
It was also essential to introduce an infrastructure which ensures their yield earns the best price. At Red El Carmen, the first Red Associations project, this has taken form in the construction of a community drying hub and QC lab.
By providing these drying facilities, the control has been returned to the producers over the the quality of their crop. Before this time, an additional intermediary was needed, to dry producer's yields on their behalf, which diminished the farmers' potential return due to the risk of lessening quality as time passes. Red Associations' local drying stations reduces this risk, preserving cup potential and providing fixed price payments for the coffees produced.
The Red Associations now covers four producer groups: Red Villamaría in Caldas, Red Santuario in Risaralda, Red El Aguila in Valle del Cauca, Red El Carmen in Huila.
The most recent developments for the project have been at Villamaría, which currently represents 30 coffee producing families in the surrounding area of Jamaica, Caldas.
This project is focussed primarily on the construction of a new drying hub for the producers in the region, at an altitude lower than the farm's of the producer members.