The Coopedota cooperative was founded in 1960. It began as a group of 96 farms. Now, the cooperative has over 900 participants all based in the Tarrazzú region. The families elect a board of directors who appoint a general manager for the cooperative. Every year, new rules and regulations are put in place for the cooperative in order to get premium quality and price for the coffee yields. Coopedota is primarily involved in the milling part of the process. They export about 90% of their dried coffee. The other 10% is roasted and sold by Coopedota.
There are many advantages of being in the Cooperative. The biggest advantage of Coopedota is that all of the different families are able to do their milling at the same place. It is much less expensive than the farmers trying to figure out the milling process on their own. Also, Coopedota specializes in drawing out the maximum quality of the already high quality beans. This provides a consistent quality and brand for the Tarrazú name. Coopedota also does the marketing for the farmers, so they don’t have to worry about it, and Coopedota is able to force better prices with the large market share. Coopedota gives the farmers a salary, so they’ll always have money, even when it is not harvesting season. Coopedota also does many environmentally and socially sustainable things that individual farmers couldn’t do. Some of their initiatives include being carbon neutral, purifying and reusing water after processing, using coffee husks instead of firewood for fuel to save trees, recycling paper and plastic, and doing educational programs for nursing homes and high schools.
However, there are still disadvantages to being in a cooperative. The farmers have less autonomy and if one does not agree with the majority then it could become a problem. All the farms are treated equally, which in many cases is good, but if one farm has superior environmental standards or a larger share of the coffee yield, they get no extra power. Many farmers may not like this. Farmers also have to pay a membership fee to join the cooperative. Something I’m wondering about is how much of the share of profits Coopedota takes away from the farmers… whether they are very clear about their financials or not. It could be extremely influential to the the disadvantages of the cooperative.
Without Coopedota, competition would immensely increase in the Tarrazú region. This happened in Monteverde when their cooperative collapsed. The prices would start to become more competitive. Larger farms could start to sell at lower prices and small wouldn’t be able to drop their prices that low, so they would loose incentive to keep producing coffee. It could really destroy some of the environmental and social sustainability. Families might have to change industries, sell their farmland, or even move out of the region. Larger producers who don’t care about the communities might move in. Production and prices could possibly increase, but it would be at the cost of the authenticity of the coffee and community.