Americans spend $19 billion annually on coffee, but coffee farmers aren't always on the receiving end of profits from those sales. Catholic Relief Services works with farmers throughout the world to help ensure that they are paid fairly for their coffee beans, regardless of current market trends.
The fair trade movement works with farmers to help them grow coffee in ecologically responsible ways and enter into long-term commercial relationships with U.S.-based businesses. Connecting coffee farming cooperatives with coffee companies allows the profits generated from sales to go directly to the farmers themselves. That in turn helps them develop the infrastructure and schools in the communities where they live.
But CRS helped Café Justo, a Mexico-based coffee business, expand and attain a new level of production and sales. As an integral part of its operation, Café Justo (Just Coffee) is committed to a model of value-added fair trade commerce. Whereas most fair trade cooperatives sell to foreign coffee companies who pay them fair prices, Café Justo's cooperatives own the entire value chain; they realize profits from roasting, packing and direct sales to their customers in the United States. Instead of fair trade, Café Justo calls this process "just trade."
CRS supports Café Justo—located in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas—with strategic advice and a revolving loan that helped the cooperative purchase and install a new roaster in northern Mexico. This support has enabled Café Justo to operate within an evolving, integrated business structure, permitting the members to own the growing, roasting, packing and exporting components of the business.
All photos by Hilda M. Perez for CRS
Hilda M. Perez is an award-winning photographer based in Orlando, Florida, who has traveled to Mexico and Honduras with CRS.