MARLIN _ Costa Rica
Milk chocolate, green apple, caramel. Sweet with a mild acidity and a well rounded, creamy body
COOPEAGRI is a large co-operative located in the Perez Zeledon region in the south of Costa Rica. It was founded in 1962 by 391 small-scale farmers with the aim of building a strong farmers’ organisation to improve living standards and bring dignity and development opportunities to their communities. Today they have over 8,000 members growing coffee on plots averaging 1.3 hectares. They also employ over 700 temporary and permanent workers. In all, COOPEAGRI reaches 35,000 farmers, workers and their family members.
From initially owning a small coffee processing plant to add value to their crop, the co-op has expanded into a range of commercial activities. It now produces and markets organic manure on a commercial scale, and has diversified into sugar cane and other agricultural products. It has purchased a sugar mill and a new coffee processing plant – with 25 times the capacity of the original one – where members’ coffee is processed before delivery to the county’s biggest exporter for final processing and export.
Coffee quality is evaluated and monitored at its own cupping laboratory – positive and negative characteristics are identified and producers are advised how to improve processes to ensure the commercial quality of the product. The co-op markets its own-brand roast and ground coffee locally but high tariffs imposed by importing countries to protect domestic roasters effectively prevent export of the product.
The co-op also carries out reforestation, water conservation and environmental educational programmes as part of its long-term strategy of sustainable development.
The co-op was Fairtrade certified for sugar cane 1998 (Fairtrade sales account for around 3 per cent of its 32,500 tonnes production) and coffee in 2004. They joined Fairtrade to achieve a fair and stable price for their coffee and to combat the radical price fluctuations in the conventional market which, along with rising costs of production and high labour costs, make it hard for farmers to meet their basic needs of food, water and fuel and pay for their children’s education. They also shared a vision with Fairtrade for consumers and business to recognise the hard work and dedication of the people behind Fairtrade products, the difficulties they face and the aspirations they have for their families.