Over the past two weeks, we’ve visited various coffee plantations and a banana plantation. I’ve learned so much from these visits and had a wonderful time learning more about the Costa Rican culture from the homestay families. From these visits, we focused on the supply chain and how each step in the chain affects the whole production of coffee and bananas, beginning to end. My group and I focused on the sourcing step in the supply chain. The beginning step starts at the coffee/banana plantation. The two coffee farms we went to that helped me gain a deeper understanding as what they do in terms of sourcing are Doka and Life Monteverde. Both these firms must decide where to get their plants from and how to find people that will do the tedious work of picking coffee cherries individually. Coffee picking is a difficult, because cherry pickers must individually pick the cherries to harvest based on the their maturity and ripeness. After that, they have to then put the coffee cherries into cajuelas to be processed. These two companies were not the only two raw materials plantation we visited. We also explored Dole’s plantation of bananas. Even though all three have some common issues/challenges to deal with when it comes to sourcing like finding labor, capital, and equipment for their plantations, Dole also has to worry about creating biodiversity for their bananas. That way, if one type of banana is susceptible to a disease, the other types may be able to avoid that disease somehow. The level of difficulty that came with the operation of these companies, made me reflect on how much time, money, and other resources were used to keep the companies afloat.
The two companies mentioned in the paragraph above also pertain to the processing mills and exporters step in the supply chain: Doka and Life Monteverde. Doka and Life Monteverde tries to be sustainable in their practices. Doka uses hydropower instead of electricity. Life Monteverde uses the power from a bike to cut the food that is fed to the animals on their farm. Machinery can increase the start up cost by a ton. So, companies like Doka, has to figure out which processing mills would be best and at the lowest cost available. Doka saves money by doing some of the work, like the drying process, manually instead with a machinery sometimes.
1820 and Cafe Britt are two of the coffee roasters and retail stores/cafes that we visited over our time abroad. Learning about these companies was truly fascinating. These companies continuously have to determine which plantations to get their coffee beans from to roast and sell. Now, because Doka exports about 90 percent of what they produce to the U.S., not many coffee roasters get their coffee locally from Doka. Cafe Britt gets their coffee from small companies that they believe have the best quality. The coffee roasters and retail stores/cafes seem to emphasize the importance of quality, because that’s what makes their companies stand out to the customers from the other countries. They have to figure out which market base is best for them, to try to target a group of people or region, that will earn the company the most profit. Cafe Britt advertises and markets their high quality and organic coffee to foreign countries like the United States, because they know that the U.S. has a higher standard of living and could afford the higher priced coffee.
The last chain in the supply chain deals with the customers. The customers get their supplies/ goods from the coffee roasters and/or retail stores/cafes. The customers have to determine what type of product they are looking for and figure out where to get their product from that information. If Ticos want coffee, most of the time, they purchase coffee from 1820 because it’s less expensive. If Americans want coffee, they purchase coffee from places like Cafe Britt, that sell high quality and organic coffee. It was interesting to learn the impact customer’s needs and wants have on companies and their ways of production. For example, customers want to purchase products from sustainable companies that care about the environment. Cafe Britt tries to incorporate that need, to grab customers attention and draw them towards buying coffee from Cafe Britt. Cafe Britt tries to put their products into biodegradable packaging, so that it’s earth friendly and helps protect the environment. Overall, this study abroad program has truly been an great learning experience and I would highly recommend it to the upcoming freshman classes.