Guatemala's specialty campaign in full swing.
The Association Nacional del Cafe (ANACAFE), Guatemala's trade organization of coffee producers, has launched a campaign to provide the U.S. specialty market with the finest quality Guatemalan coffees.
The promotion effort is based on an overall theme equating Guatemala with quality, under the heading: "The Coffee World's Best Kept Secret: Guatemala's Regional Qualities."
Because of the numerous microclimates prevalent throughout Guatemala, the different growing regions provide distinctive tastes in the cup, with the most common origins being Genuine Antiguas, Coban, Atitlan, Huehuetanango (Hue-Hue), Mataquescuintla (Matas) and Fraijanes. Guatemala is unique in that with the exception of Totonicapan and Peten, all of the country's states or departments produce coffee.
Coffee is the mainstay of the Guatemalan economy. In a normal year, it produces 30 to 35% of the foreign exchange of the country and as recently as 1986, it represented as much as 48% of all exports. More than 10% of the economically active population of Guatemala is involved in coffee production. Additionally, of the country's 43,700 coffee producers, 39,000 are small producers or members of coffee cooperatives.
Recently, ANACAFE was named the Executing Agency for a joint $25 million project by the Governments of Guatemala and the United States, through the Agency for International Development--AID to help better the lives of the small coffee producer of Guatemala. Under the eight year project, 8,100 farmers will receive technical assistance and commercial bank credit to modernize their coffee farms, with the intention of substantially increasing their income.
ANACAFE has worked extensively with small farmers since 1981 when it started its program of Groups of Friendship and Work (GAT's), through which groups of approximately 20 small farmers from a community are given training not only in modern coffee technology but also in health, education and community affairs. The GAT's have served as a model for other coffee producing countries in the area.
The novelty under the joint AID-ANACAFE project is that the small producer will have access to commercial bank credit, in many cases for the first time in his lifetime. The involved banks have agreed to keep the farmer-beneficiary as a credit risk at the end of the project, providing he complies with the terms of the loan.
Under the project, the small farmer will be required to cut down one "manzana" (1.72 acres) of low-yielding coffee trees and to replace them with modern, higher quality plants. It is expected that the average yield of the farmers involved in the project will increase from eight hundredweight per manzana of export grade coffee to an average of 30 hundred-weight.
As a requirement for obtaining the financial support, the farmers must participate in the Association's educational programs. The project is designed to produce only top quality coffee of Guatemala's semi-hard, hard and strictly hard bean types. The President of ANACAFE, Dr. Jaime Casals explains, "This small farmer support project has been designed to further ANACAFE's goal of increasing exportable production by 30% during the next eight to ten years." Under the project, the small producer will receive greater income not only because of his higher productive yield but also due to premiums for quality coffees.
To promote technological advancement, the project will offer onsite agricultural instruction throughout the country. The Association will disseminate this information to as many producers as possible through extension agents in the field and the use of modern communication methods such as videos. According to Casals, "Our intention is to provide uniform communication throughout the country thereby enabling farmers to increase their yields and impove preparation. Another important element of this campaign is to encourage consitency."
Looking forward to the future, Casals predicts that, in addition to the United States and other leading importers, the Eastern bloc countries will try to obtain better coffees. It is his belief that, as more of the countries become "westernized,' their awakening will include an increasing demand for quality. "Guatemala plans to make top-quality regional coffees more readily available. These coffees also represemt an excellent value.
ANACAFE is comprised of a twenty member Board of Directors, four of which are named by the Government, four represent the cooperatives and the remainder are elected by the coffee farmers. Headquartered in Guatamela City, the organization has satellite offices throughout the coffee producing areas and also is the principal supporter of 14 rural healthcare clinics. The Association pays 75% of the operating costs of the clinics while the farmers pay the difference. Moreover, it collaborates with other service organizations in providing support to coffee farmers. General Manager James McSweeney explains, "In addition to providing educational and technological services, ANACAFE regulates the country's coffee quota system when quotas are in effect supports and contributes to the ICO and pays for the country's delegations to the ICO meetings.
President Casals explained, "The initial phase of the marketing program will target the U.S. specialty roaster, retailer and distributor who understands the difference between a fine coffee and an average coffee in the cup. The concept is that these experts will in turn, encourage their customers to enjoy Guatemalan high-grown regional coffees." Unlike the familiar consumer-directed advertising campaign begun by the Federacion Nacinal del Cafeteros of Colombia (FNC) more than thirty years ago, the focus of the Guatemalan program is directed toward members of the coffee and specialty food trades. Additionally, whereas the Colombian advertisements include commercial grade as well as "gourmet" coffees, the Guatemalan program will promote only fine, washed Arabica quality, with the emphasis on regional
Another significant difference between Colombia's and Guatemala's marketing approach is ANACAFE's ongoing "two-way" dialogue between those who produce and those who trade, sell and roast coffee in the U.S. While the FNC's consumer-oriented program is primarily an advertising and promotional scheme directed at generating sales, ANACAFE's plans encompass specific educational programs for producing better quality coffees.
In conjunction with its marketing program, the Guatemalan Association recently exhibited coffees, participated in several panel discussions and provided educational information at the 1990 Specialty Coffee Association of America Trade Show and Conference. Resource materials being developed for the trade include a handbook on Guatemalan coffees, a periodic newsletter and a promotional video. The Association also organizes tours of the country's coffee growing regions, including the Specialty Coffee Association of America's 1991 tour of Guatemala. McSweeney added, "As part of our effort to encourage ongoing communication with the U.S. trade, we oepened a U.S. office in Los Angeles last November and installed a Guatemalan Coffee information hotline: (800) 345-3416."