In Peru, the efforts of a cooperative to guarantee its prices

Cenfrocafé, with 3,000 producers, wants to produce a better quality coffee.

How to deal with price volatility? The question taunts many small farmers in the South, even when they are isolated and poorly trained in the subtleties of world trade. In the Jaén region, the Cenfrocafé cooperative - which brings together 3,000 coffee producers - took the root of the problem.

Its managers first chose to take a course on "price risk", designed by the Dutch association Oikocredit, in collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank. "We do not promise an increase in revenues, but our goal is to give producers the means to understand and respond to price changes," explains Hugo Villela, behind the device.

In Peru, the success of coffee benefits producers

"When the world price is very low, buyers are reluctant to give us the" fair "premium"

In concrete terms, this three-year training program has three chapters: helping cooperative managers better understand and negotiate contracts; accompany them in the physical management of the harvest (anticipate the quantities produced ...); and raise their awareness of financial risk management, particularly through existing insurance systems.

The other major component of measures undertaken by Cenfrocafé is to improve the quality of its grains. "It's the best way to increase our income, says Ronny Garcia, the general manager. When the world price is very low, buyers are reluctant to give us the "fair" premium, even if our coffee is. Better then turn to premium coffee, which is a separate market. "

This quest for quality is a long-term job. We must first rethink the work of the fields, paying attention to the quality of the soil and varieties of coffee. Cenfrocafé thus embarked on an agronomic research program to improve its seeds and ran its seven agronomists on the plantations of its members.

Post harvest work - selection of cherries by maturity, separation of pulp and grain, drying ... - is also essential. This is why Cenfrocafé has just acquired a factory, a vast white vessel in the middle of the forest, in which is spread an impressive series of machines from Brazil, Colombia or Germany. Cost of the operation: $ 4 million, half financed by a loan from Oikocredit.

"With this plant, we will control the quality of what we produce, whereas previously, these operations were subcontracted out," continues Ronny Garcia. First tests were conducted in December, with the goal of being ready for the start of the harvest in May. "Initially, producers will not see the difference, recognizes the director general, but if all goes well, we will give them a nice bonus at the end of the campaign. "

Séverin Husson, special envoy to Jaén (Peru)