We sat down with Bram de Hoog, Ally Coffee’s Central America buyer and a panelist at PRF 2021.
Ally Coffee, a PRF 2021 Bronze Sponsor, is a green coffee company that connects roasters with green coffee sourced from its producer partners.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES AND CHALLENGES OF IMPORTING/EXPORTING GREEN COFFEE FROM HONDURAS?
Currently, Honduras is the biggest producer of coffee in Central America and the fifth-largest in the world. Honduran producers work extra hard to set their coffee apart from other regions and producers. As a result, it’s a great place to find any type of coffee; one can find unique microlot coffees as well as an ample range of good-quality coffees in volume from cooperatives or private mills. Additionally, in my experience, producers are very open to suggestions about how they can improve their product.
One of the difficulties with sourcing coffee from Honduras is that the producing regions in the country are distant from one another, yet there is only one port that handles frequent container shipments. This can make consolidating microlots from different regions more complicated and costly.
Honduras also suffers from an outdated reputation for producing inferior coffee, which has largely been attributed to poor milling conditions. However, over the last five years, quality has greatly increased thanks to an aforementioned effort to produce differentiated coffee.
WHAT TRENDS DO YOU THINK WILL TAKE PLACE IN COFFEE IN 2020 AND 2021 – AND WHICH MARKETS WILL THEY IMPACT?
I think that producers will be more cautious with the volumes of specialty microlots that they produce. As roasted coffee sales have slowed down for many roasters, it is likely that both roasters and importers will be [careful about] microlots in the near future. Therefore, producers will have less demand for these coffees.
The traditional washed process will likely be more popular to ensure a decent price, but [I don’t think there will be the same] focus on maximising potential.
Furthermore, as a result of the decrease in roasted coffee sales (largely due to the pandemic) producers are also likely to sell less coffee altogether in 2020. This could potentially lead to less investment as well more debt for producers, ultimately meaning the same thing: less microlot production throughout 2021.
WHAT ARE YOUR MAIN AIMS AND OBJECTIVES FOR PRF 2021?
This will be the fourth consecutive year I visit Honduras, and PRF will be a highlight of my itinerary for 2021.
Over the past four years, I have met many people who work with Ally Coffee, and many who often work together when dry milling and shipping coffees. It will be a great opportunity to have all of these producing partners in one room to make formal introductions.
Furthermore, if other producing partners visit, it will be a great opportunity to make cross-border connections between different partners with a wealth of experience who can share their knowledge with one another.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT HONDURAN COFFEES? IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT SEPARATES HONDURAS FROM OTHER ORIGINS?
I think Honduras is blessed with a lot of natural resources and [the conditions] to produce excellent coffee. Many coffee farms are well-integrated with nature and certification schemes, which has demonstrated sustainable, low-impact agricultural practices alongside responsibility as regards resource preservation and biodiversity.
The different regions and types of producers [in Honduras] are all able to supply roasters with all types and grades at competitive prices. I personally believe that if you invest time and energy in building an elaborate sourcing scheme in Honduras, you can then offer a diverse portfolio of coffees from the same country.
The different values represented in different coffees will then allow roasters to cater to customer demands and consequently work throughout different regions in the country. If you approach this [appropriately] at origin, you can create a community of producers to drive synergy and consequently benefit everyone along the supply chain.
Photo credits: Ally Coffee