I am not a big fan of Bill Gates; I still think the world would be a better place without the domination of Microsoft. Charity is better than nothing, but businesses have far more opportunity to shape a better world through how they do their business than they do through what they give. At Riverford this means developing long term relationships with growers who share our values. It generally takes years to build up the trust and understanding that encourages farmers to commit to growing for the box scheme and to concentrate on flavour rather than yield. When it all works (and I think it usually does) this close relationship enables us to deliver that flavour plus the social and environmental ethics in your box each week without a price premium. I went to school with several of our co-op members in Devon and after 12 years things run incredibly smoothly. But the more distant the grower, the more challenging building a relationship of trust becomes.
Earlier this year Armando from Brazil visited and shared a cup of his coffee while he told me the story behind the co-operative of 23 Demeter certified biodynamic family farms in North East Brazil where the beans were grown. Twenty years ago 65% of Brazilian coffee was grown by small family farms. Today the figure is 25% with the remaining 75% being grown by large farms and corporations on large, mechanised and chemically intensive farms. The displaced farmers and their families are mostly condemned to the grinding poverty of migrant seasonal workers or have moved to the urban slums of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The resulting coffee is traded as an anonymous international commodity. Under our agreement with Armando, the growers of our new Floresta organic coffee are paid at least 40% more than the Fairtrade price for the green (fresh) beans plus an extra 40% of the profits on the sale of the roasted coffee.
The best thing of all is the coffee itself. 100% Arabica, single estate, slow roasted and because it is delivered without any middlemen, competitively priced at