The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Myanmar raises serious questions for all of us who buy Myanmar coffee. While Atlas is not working in Rakhine State - We work in Mandalay State and Shan State, which are further east - we want to be abundantly clear about why we continue to support smallholder farmers in that country.
Many of the world’s coffee producing countries are developing nations facing complex economic, social and humanitarian issues. At Atlas, we believe that supporting economics efforts within the most vulnerable populations (i.e. smallholder coffee producers) can have a positive impact on at-risk communities.
Policies of oppression typically originate with - and are enforced by - government and military leaders, not in agricultural sectors. History has shown that withholding economic support from these countries is unlikely to lead to policy reform, and is likely to exacerbate conditions for the very people who most need financial opportunities.
At Atlas, we don't work with governments; we support smallholder farmers. Currently, our work in Myanmar supports two ethnic minority groups up in Shan State, the Pa-O and Danu people. We are supporting communities which have long endured economic hardship. Profit from specialty coffee sales is going into schools, medical facilities, and – of course – households throughout Shan State and Mandalay. These communities have benefited greatly from their work in specialty coffee, and we see no reason to cut off their access to the market because of conflicts in which they are not participating, and over which they have no control.
We are continuously evaluating how best to move forward in Myanmar, and to ensure our buyers that the work we are doing in Myanmar does not contribute to the conflict in Rakhine State in any way. As and when we have updates, we will let you know.
In the meantime, please feel free to reach out with any more questions.