It has always been about developing the niche market by certifying the highest possible quality coffee that we can find. “My aim was to be different from all the existing big trading houses.” – Menno Simons. By not only certifying, but upgrading the quality of the coffee at the same time, we’re able to fetch better prices and pay the growers higher wages. This way the growers develop themselves further and we can continue investing.
Oromia Coffee Farmers Co-operative Union which was set up in 2000, were the first in Ethiopia to be certified. The union, which united several smaller co-operatives, made it possible to get the right international control systems and traceability in place to realize the Organic Certifications, and later Fair Trade. This was a key stepping stone in developing the market for high-quality Organic Certified coffees from Ethiopia, travelling extensively through Ethiopia to do so.
Driven to make progress at origin, a project was planned which would result in an investment of €800,000 in Ethiopia, of which the Dutch government subsidized 60%. In the years 2005-2008 we introduced the first seven Eco-pulpers in Ethiopia, machines that not only use far less water than conventional pulpers do, but also produce better quality coffee. After that we installed 3 dry mills for unwashed hulling at the co-op level and brought Organic Certification to many co-ops belonging to the Sidama- and Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Co-operatives Union. We even brought in Agronomists from Hawaii to train all the smallholder farmers. The next step was to introduce the first Grainpro bags and the vacuum packaging machine for green coffee. After which, we arranged the first serious amounts of crop financing in the complex Ethiopian banking system. With the help of many specialty coffee roasters, we paid high premiums to the farmers and were able to market their coffees worldwide.
Listening to market demand, we now work with Organic, Fairtrade FLO, Fairtrade USA, Rainforest Alliance and a few other smaller certifications. Continuing to certify farms and co-ops according to each specification. Not only that, but if a roaster is interested in a specific coffee with a specific certification, we try our best to develop a customized product for them.