On Wednesday we left the banana plantations behind to visit Cepicafe to learn more about their Fairtrade coffee, sugar and cocoa exports. When we arrived they were hosting an international conference but Finance Manager, Jose Fernando Reyes Cordova still found the time to show us around their facilities. Cepicafe is a fascinating model that really helps grass roots communities. Farmers are encouraged to work together in associations in order to increase the scale of production and reduce costs. Once the association is large enough they are given assistance and staff to become independent.
Cepicafe exports sugar, coffee, cocoa, marmalade and juice. Shared Interest funds have been particularly helpful in this time of high coffee prices. During our visit we looked at the sugar and coffee processing, before heading out to see the cocoa farms.
Sugar cane needs a lot of sun to grow so the region is perfect. Cepicafe works with 700 sugar producers and by exporting sugar cane they have improved their quality of life and self-esteem significantly. Particular emphasis is placed on training the farmers to reduce their costs and maximise their yields. Working with the farmers has also resulted in big reduction in alcoholism due to the sugar being used for other products and in addition, the increase in price makes alcohol less cost effective to make.
Cepicafe has seen a huge growth in cocoa production and export. There are a number of factors that have led to this increase. Firstly buyers are looking for a high quality aromatic cocoa. Also the quality of the bigger cocoa producers has reduced but the most important factor has been the marketing of white cocoa “Porcelana” which is considered the best in the world.
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