Today, we visited Coopedota, a cooperative based out of the Tarrazú area. They grow their coffee and import other coffee from 900 farms in the region. Their main business is in the milling process, but growing and roasting still happen in the facility as well. These farms bring their picked coffee cherries to Coopedota in order to carry out the milling process, and roast some times.
Having one overseeing power collecting all the coffee to export has some advantages. First, it is a lot easier for the buyers to get the coffee and develop relationships. Coopedota is able to produce a lot of coffee and export it to roasters and sellers. If these roasters and sellers had to buy straight from the smaller farms, it would be a lot more tedious. They would need buy coffee from many different farms, and it would be a much difficult process. With the cooperation, buyers only need to go to Coopedota. They can develop a stronger relationship with Coopedota, pay a fixed price for all of the coffee, and receive a more consistent quality.
Another advantage of a cooperation is bringing farmers together. These farms are associated with each other, so they can share ideas and practices to better their practice. They are not competing with each other, so the farms are better off sharing each other’s practices. Better coffee will help everyone. Also, local farmers knowing each other locally helps with keeping up the farms, kind of like how Monteverde talked about runoff from neighboring yards. With farmers knowing each other, they will care more about each other’s land and not mindlessly dump pesticides and other things into neighboring yards.
Cooperatives are not all good, though. As mentioned in the presentation, some larger farms are not fans of the alliance and end up dropping out. All 900 farms are given equal say in the decision-making process. The farms that contribute a larger amount of coffee to the cooperative find this unfair. They are important in the success in the sales of the company, but their importance is not weighted enough in the decision-making process. On the tour, we were told some farmers have left the cooperation because of this reason.
The addition of the cooperative helps the farmers, because their coffee can be sold at a better price. On the other side, this is not beneficial to consumers. Coopedota eliminates a lot of competition. With the elimination of competition, Coopedota can raise their prices without worrying too much about consumers buying from someone else. If all 900 farms were independent, competition would not allow companies to raise prices too high without losing sales. With this “monopoly”, Coopedota can raise prices, which hurts the consumer.
If Coopedota did not exist, the coffee environment would be very different. First of all, Coopedota sells 90% unroasted coffee. My guess is that individual farmers would develop more roasting facilities to add value and make selling to retailers and consumers easier. As mentioned earlier, I also think Coopedota being eliminated would lower the prices for consumers. I think, in the end, Coopedota is very helpful to the coffee industry in the Tarrazú. There are so many small farms that cannot practically act as their own business. Even with the disadvantages listed, I think Coopedota helps greatly within the community.