A short snippet from Bob Fulmer and Chris Kornman’s discussion on Royal Coffee’s Farmgate Transparency Program. If you’d like to hear more, check out the full podcast episode. 

Back to the Farm

Since co-founding Royal Coffee in 1978, I have made numerous trips to origin countries with a whole lot of different people, and the one thing I have never experienced is hearing anyone, ever, say that coffee farmers and workers are making too much. Efforts to address inequity require a solution that guarantees fair compensation throughout the chain, and that does not exist yet, but it is encouraging that the interest to build in more fairness is at an all-time high.

I am impressed by leaders in our industry who are striving to bring more transparency to a business that historically has not been very transparent. In order to help push this ball forward, Royal has created a distinctive description called farmgate, which will inform buyers about the availability of coffee in which the price paid to the farmer is transparent.

This is just a first step for Royal. Down the road, we hope to develop or adopt a more complete transparent model, one in which the entire chain of costs could be documented, from farm labor to retail sale. We are hopeful that promising platforms such as Blockchain might make this possible.

The first coffees we are offering in this new farmgate category are small-scale farmers from the Sierra Nevada region of Colombia. The Sierra de Santa Marta is one of the most interesting places on Earth. If you have not already seen it, there is a beautiful BBC documentary on YouTube which everyone should see: La Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City) From the Heart of the World—The Elder Brother’s Warning. The growers of our farmgate lots are from the association Red Ecolsierra, and these lots were sourced and sold to Royal by Azahar Coffee Company, an innovative Colombian company dedicated to paying farmers based on the cost of production. This quote is from the Azahar web page:

“Every day, the coffee market price fluctuates based on the NY ‘C’ price, the exchange rate for the Colombian peso, and the “Colombian Differential” (the amount of cents per pound that the market is recognizing for commodity grade Colombian coffee). This price does not take into account farmers’ costs of production, yet it is the basis upon which all Colombian coffee is purchased. We believe this fails coffee producers. That is why we recognize and value quality and experience by paying higher, stable prices because regardless of what the market says, good coffee farming should be profitable.”


R. Fulmer