Last but not Least

Today we visited our final coffee plantation, Coopedota.   Coopedota operates as a coffee cooperative, where 900 individual farms send coffee beans to a central location to go through the milling, roasting, and selling processes. The end of the trip was very cool, as a barista showed how to make different coffee drinks!

Coopedota operates as cooperative, which provides many advantages to the company.   One advantage to the cooperative (meaning the company “Coopedota”) as a whole is that the 900 farms provide diversity.  This is beneficial because if one farm fails, does not provide beans, or is plagued by disease, Coopedota will be able to receive coffee beans from many other farms.  Some traditional companies only receive their beans from one farm, and if that farm failed, then they would have to find a new supplier.  Another advantage to Coopedota (once again meaning the company “Coopedota”) is that the farms can only sell to the cooperative, so they will always have a plentiful supply (unless there are very rare conditions).   A cooperative also provides many advantages to the individual farms.  One of these advantages is that it provides economic help.  If each individual farm had to mill and roast beans, it would be very expensive.  However, sending the beans to the central location (which conducts the milling and roasting process) allows the farms to make money off the final product without having to pay for the milling or roasting equipment.  Also, a cooperative helps the environment.  If the 900 farms were also millers and roasters, they would produce a lot of waste.  This would be very difficult to control, and some farms would probably try to cheat the system (which is what would happen with traditional companies).  However, the cooperative makes it easier to control the waste because the roaster and the milling equipment are at one location.  Another advantage is that the cooperative always provides a buyer to the smaller farms, so the farms never have to worry about selling their coffee. 

There are also many disadvantages associated with a cooperative.  One disadvantage a farm faces when they join a cooperative is that they can only sell to the cooperative.  This limits the farm because they might be able to sell their beans for a higher price elsewhere, but they cannot due to the cooperative contract.  However, in the traditional system, farms can sell to whichever company will give them the best price.  A disadvantage to larger farms in a cooperative is that every farm, no matter the size, is treated equally.  This has caused many large farms to leave Coopedota because they feel that since they are larger and provide more beans to the cooperative, they should have more of a say.  Another disadvantage is that the farms cannot control the reputation of the company.  This is a disadvantage because if the board of directors or the Coopedota headquarters make a mistake that ruins the reputation of the cooperative, the farms will have to find a new buyer. 

Santa Maria de Dota would be very different if there was not a cooperative in the area.  After speaking with today’s presenter I learned that currently the community is like a family because each farm knows each other and is willing to help in any way.  She thinks that if the cooperative did not exist, a private company would take over the area and act like a monopoly, which would cause many problems.  One issue would be the treatment of the workers.  Currently the cooperative treats and pays their workers well, but if a private company took over, the workers would probably be treated and paid a lot worse.  Also, the price of the coffee could significantly increase, because monopolies have the power to charge higher prices.  In conclusion, she believes that if the cooperative did not exist in Santa Maria de Dota, the community would be worse off.  I agree with everything she said and I also believe the community would be a lot more competitive, causing the farms to not get along as well as they do now.  Another difference would be that the private company would give larger farms more of a say, which would anger the smaller farms.

I cannot believe today was the last day we are visiting a coffee plantation.  After visiting the six plantations, I think I have a very good understanding of how the coffee production process works!

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