Coffee Talk with FT USA’s Colleen Anunu

By: Dana Foster

Oct 24, 2018

As Fair Trade Month is wrapping up, we decided to dig a bit deeper and interviewed our long-time friend and colleague, Colleen Anunu from Fair Trade USA. Here, she answers your (and our) burning questions!

We know you are awesome now, but what did you want to be when you grew up? 

In high school I really wanted to be a Spice Girl. I wanted to sing on stage, travel the world and meet people. Then a friend’s wife (who was an opera singer) told me that I wasn’t cut out for the talent industry because I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my morals. Now she’s his ex-wife and he’s so much better for it. Now I want to be a carpenter when I grow up.

What is your role at Fair Trade USA?

I am the Director of Supply Chain for the Coffee category at Fair Trade USA. This essentially means that spend a lot of my time working to improve market access of FT coffee producer organizations through outreach and communications, research partnerships and grant funded programs. The bulk of our research right now is focuses on the economic benefits and impacts of Fair Trade, the Fair Trade Minimum Price and the Fair Trade Premium, including the implementation of a cost of production methodology. Our major grant partnership is a price risk management program that provides trainings and tools to producers in Latin America to better manage their purchases and sales, in order to remain cost competitive and to return higher prices and high quality services to their grower members.

As you, yourself, Colleen, what are the greatest benefits of FT certification for producers?

In today’s market, hands down the most tangible and impactful benefit of the Fair Trade certification are the Fair Trade Minimum Price (FTMP) and the Fair Trade Premium (FTP). These are life savers for those cooperatives that are able to sell a majority of their product on Fair Trade terms.

The FTMP for washed arabica kicks in when the C market is below $1.40. The last time that the C market was above the FTMP was September 15, 2017. That’s the past two seasons for Central American coffee producers. Additionally, the Fair Trade Premium is at a static $.20 per pound, and if a coffee is certified organic, it receives an additional $.30 per pound. This means that the effective price per pound for a Fair Trade Conventional coffee is $1.60 and the price per pound for a Fair Trade Organic coffee is $1.90.

When rising production costs and declining profitability at farm-level are at the heart of many of the coffee industry’s biggest challenges (including farm financing, labor shortages, farm worker rights, gender equity, and generational succession), these pricing safety nets are crucial market interventions.

What is the biggest misunderstanding or myth of FT that you hear from producers or roasters or both?

I think the biggest myth that I hear from roasters is that Fair Trade and Direct Trade / relationship coffee are opposing business models. While there are differences, these models can be leveraged to strengthen each other. Plenty of roasters have direct relationships with producers AND purchase on Fair Trade terms – meaning that they pay at least the minimum price and the $.20 premium that producers invest in infrastructure, services to members and communities. Just as direct relationships are crucial to communicating expectations about the product and understanding supply chain partner needs, it is also crucial to have a Trade Standard that offsets the traditional power dynamics of purchasing relationships, secures contract financing and mitigates some price risk exposure.

If a producer wants to become FT certified, what is the first thing you would recommend that they do? 

We recommend that producers to have a market partner that is interested in and committed to purchasing Fair Trade product. Without an established market it is challenging to sell the % volume that it would take to see an return on investment in certification.

Any shout outs to producers or roasters doing great work?

There are so so many producer organizations that truly deserve the spotlight – they are champions for their producer members and inspiring human beings. I’ll name just a few that we’ve worked with very closely over the past few years: CESMACH (Mexico), Sol y Café (Peru), COOCENTRAL (Colombia), Aldea Global (Nicaragua), COMSA (Honduras) and Ketiara (Sumatra). This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a start! There are also a lot of amazing roasters that we partner with, but I just want to give a big shout out to Bob Garver at Bard Coffee and Wicked Joe in Portland, Maine.

What is your favorite thing about your job? 

Because so much of what I do is pretty intangible (especially for someone who was a roaster and cupper for so many years), it’s hard to really see the impact of the my work on a day to day basis. So I would say one of the best things about my job is that I get to work with a team of amazingly talented, funny, supportive, honest and caring people that inspire me every day to work toward the mission of the organization.