Danny Davies, MD at Climpson & Sons sources coffee for Climpson & Sons. Here is what he has to say about the importance of Direct Trade.
As MD of a busy company, my day is filled with a multitude of pretty mundane, but necessary tasks. That's OK, that's business for you, and I'm certainly not complaining about the buzz of activity I have created around me. However, the main reason I am here is because of my love of our core product, coffee. And there is a task I look forward to the most of all, that I would do all day everyday if I had the chance: sourcing the beans!
Growing up as an international child instilled in me a real passion for exotic countries and people, and this love of the different life outside of the Western bubble underlies my enthusiasm for countries that grow coffee, or "origin" as we like to call it in the industry. I genuinely care for the quality of life of the farmers and communities that cultivate the beans we cherish so much, as I have experienced their way of life first-hand whilst living in remote villages in South East Asia. I know how hard it can be to graft a living there, to find water that won't give you dysentery and to create a safe environment for your children to learn and grow up in.
The commodity market for arabica in New York is so far removed from this other world, it's often incomprehensible to the unfortunate growers that try to sell to brokers that the price they can get will be going down year on year (although it doesn't always).
The only way around this for us is to offer farmers a fixed price for their coffee, regardless of daily NY fluctuations.
We achieve this by only purchasing directly traded, or "farmgate" coffees. Farmgate sales result in more unique coffees with a personal story and terroir, the complete opposite of commodity coffee.
Our Finca San Patricio El Limon coffee from Guatemala was purchased from the farmers representative at way above market price—paying what it costs to produce plus a decent premium, translating to profit for the farmer. With the arabica market being so low, at-market price would be below cost of production if we bought on the open market (not that the Guatemalan coffee would be available there!).
By Danny Davies, MD of Climpson & Sons
Image with thanks from Kate Cunningham