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Fair trade comes to farmers in Cau Dat
16:02:11 23/02/2017

Mr. Nguyen Bong has long been a coffee farmer in Cau Dat village, Xuan Truong commune, Da Lat city, Lam Dong province. The cultivating area of his family now is 2 hecta. Having grown coffee for decades, it was not until 2015 that he knew about Fairtrade cooperative term and also in that year, he was one of the first farmers joining Cau Dat coffee and agricultural production – trade – service cooperative.

Although being old, he has a quite good knowledge about Fairtrade standards and also the technical requirements… When talking with him, we saw the zeal and belief in his decision in his eyes.

Before joining the cooperative, small farmers had many struggles in producing and selling, in which the most difficulty is the unstable price of coffee. “Farmers get many difficulties in selling fresh coffee beans. The price of red coffee cherries is quite different from the price of mixed red and green coffee cherries. And if we harvest beans in such faraway gardens that the cherries get addled , the price of coffee cherries will go down… The price is based on the market. We have to accept the price that is made by some companies and dealers.”

The concept of Fairtrade is still not thoroughly understood by the old farmer, but he can tell the outstanding advantages of Fairtrade cooperative in comparison with traditional cooperatives, especially collective bargaining and the importance of following Fairtrade standards when participating in the cooperative: “Fairness is every member is equal in selling coffee with the same price and the standards are all the same to everyone.” Mr. Bong prepares proper equipments and complies with the standards and technical regulations of Fairtrade himself.

Photo: Mr. Bong harvesting coffee cherries in the coffee farm

In the cultivation process, Mr. Bong’s family do not use chemical fertilizers to fertilize the coffee, and fresh coffee after harvest must be dried well within standards. Because of the rigorous Fairtrade coffee harvesting standards, his family must also hire more workers during the harvest season. Before, only 10 workers could harvest 1 ton of fresh coffee, now it requires 17 workers to do the job. He still wants to continue to update and learn new techniques to increase productivity and quality of coffee. “We hope that when we join the cooperative, the cooperative will provdies techniques that go close to the locality to make coffee trees grow well and we have high productivity.”

To make up for that labour, Mr. Bong family’s coffee is sold into the Fairtrade channel with a higher price. Last year, the fresh coffee production of the his family is 30 tons. Mr. Bong was able to sell 30-40% of this volume into the cooperative, with the price from 11.000 to 12.000 VND/ kg, while the purchase price from dealers was only about 9,000 VND/ kg. As for the dried coffee, with outstanding quality by standardized process, the coffee price sold to Fairtrade channel could be up to 160% compared to the market price (in 2015 the price of dried coffee sold to Cau Dat cooperative was 80,000 VND while the market price was only 50,000 VND). The results of this first step brings joy to many farmers, the pioneers who involved in the Fairtrade cooperative, a very new model in Xuan Truong. These results also return the care and labour of the farmers, so they can continue to trust in the techniques through trainings received, bringing the best value to consumers.

Cau Dat is the new cooperative, but he shared with us his hope that “Now being a member of the cooperative, we hope that our cooperative can find the good output for our product and the good input which is fertilizer with better price… When joining the cooperative, we think that we are a member so we have to follow the regulations of the cooperative, register for standardized coffee and comply the right techniques. Hope that our cooperative will achieve sustainable development and follow strictly with the price so that it can be fairly better than the market price”. The expectation and the commitment of members are the motivation for cooperative’s Management Board to try to develop the cooperative sustainably.