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PERU

We’re thrilled to reveal that Crop to Cup has partnered with Origin Coffee Lab to help roasters build beautiful relationships in Peru.

Introduction

In the 17 years since Crop to Cup was founded, we’ve maintained a focus on just a handful of coffee producing countries—a focus that we’ve renewed for 2024 in an effort to work more deeply through the supply chains to which we’re committed.

The temptation of coffee importers is to grow by continually adding new origins to fill holes in their book—growing wider, rather than deeper into the supply chains in which they work. Expansion simply for the sake of expansion would force us to make compromises, buy less from more producers, or diffuse the efforts of our team too broadly over too many places. Where we did work, we would have less impact. This is why we move slowly and why—even if roasters are asking traders for coffee from a certain place—we always ensure we have a raison d’être before signing our first contracts in a new origin.

Adding or removing a new origin to our book is one we approach with care; our impact in communities is directly related to our ability to work there and buy coffee from there year after year. Taking on a new import is, for us, a commitment not only to roasters seeking those coffees but also to the smallholders, cherry collectors, agronomists, millers and exporters through which coffee communities are built.

And in Peru, we believe there’s a role we can play—and an impact we can have.

Peru is a nation founded upon agriculture: from the export of guano for fertilizer that drove its economic growth in the 19th century to today’s export of coffee, cocoa and coca—solutions hoping to alleviate the challenges faced by Peru’s people and create opportunities for self-determination should arise out of this context. Our work in East Africa taught us the power of agricultural solutions to transform communities. We partnered with growers and processors and connected them them with the resources they needed—agronomists, material support, credit and financing as well as buyers—paid prices higher than the local market, and represented not only the coffees but the people who grew them to quality- and traceability-oriented roasters in the United States.

We hope to do the same in Peru.

Our presence in South America is nascent; while our work with Aequitas in Brazil grows each year in scope, sophistication and volume, in Colombia, where we steward the work started by our partners at Cedro Alto, the availability of government and export services, strength of market access, and market maturity means that there are often actors better suited to Colombia’s needs than Crop to Cup keeping our ambitions modest..

Peru produces coffee for the needs of every coffee buyer, regardless of scale, certification needs, price sensitivities or quality requirements. And through the networks we’ve built, we see an opportunity to fill a services gap for financing and technical support and create market access where little—or none—currently exists.

To work successfully in a place like Peru—a large country (geographically and volumetrically) with a specialty sector that is both smallholder-oriented and primarily built around the export of certification-bearing coffee from associations—we need to have partnerships and capabilities on the ground in the form of local expertise, cultural and language interpreters (in Puno, few indigenous growers speak Spanish), and the infrastructure to overcome the challenges of chain of custody, sampling and lot separation.

José and his team at Origin have built and scaled this framework but need a partner in the U.S. to push their work further into new regions, reaching greater depths and thousands of more smallholders.

Our purchasing and work in Peru will support environmental conservation and renewal efforts; investment in producers and producer groups led by women; stabilization of communities impacted by the country’s civil war and the U.S. policy toward coca production; and enterprise for disenfranchised indigenous populations.


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Peru’s coffee is primarily grown by smallholder farmers who have farms, on average, of smaller than two hectares.

Work with us in Peru

We will offer both full-container load contracts as well as microlot purchases, across quality grades, cup profiles and producing regions, but with an emphasis on project coffees in the South as well as high-quality microlots.

OCL is a small operation—with just one U.S.-based employee and a small team at origin focused on lab work. Crop to Cup will step into the role of marketing the coffees coming through OCL’s supply chains to the North American market with an interest in the development of roaster relationships with smallholders in currently underserved producing regions of Peru like Puno.

Spot offers will appear on our offer sheet, and forward offers will be communicated in a booking window ahead of shipment, just as in other countries where we operate. With José and Origin on the ground in Peru as our agents, we’re able to ensure that sample material presented to roasters is representative of actual lots in warehouse.

If you’re a current OCL direct export customer, nothing needs to change about the way that you’ve been buying from Peru. Crop to Cup’s services are now available to you should you need them beyond import brokerage including purchase planning, financing, import logistics and customs brokerage, sample facilitation, third party QC, and enhanced forward bookings.


Harvest and Purchasing Cycles

Harvest in Peru moves North to South, beginning in lower elevations in Amazonia, Cajamarca and San Martín in June then peaking at higher elevations there in July and August—when harvest is just beginning in the South across Cusco and Puno.

Origin Coffee Lab collects parchment coffee at its warehouses through the harvests, ensuring separation, chain of custody and the integrity and representative nature of samples (as they are drawn from stock lots). Because of this, samples are only available after harvest has begun, and will be provided to forward contract customers as pre-ship samples.

Contracts can be booked forward based on quality and price parameters before samples are available.


For 84- or 85-point blender coffees including full container volumes, offer samples are available immediately; contact your trader ASAP. We expect arrival for these coffees by October.

For microlots and top lots, we expect sample availability in October with arrival to the U.S. in November/December.


About Origin Coffee Lab

Our export partner in Peru, Origin Coffee Lab, was founded by José Rivera in 2016 to elevate economic opportunity for smallholders in his home country of Peru.

To that end, Origin has built quality control and chain-of-custody systems that ensure a quality focus, paying progressively higher premiums above local prices to farmers as quality increases. Origin provides necessary support to in-network miembros to improve farm practices and teach both financial and agricultural techniques to enable lasting change.

José’s background on the consumer end of the supply chain—he worked as a roaster and director of coffee for a small specialty roaster in Chicago—informs the way he built Origin to operate. It’s structured to solve the problems that roasters commonly face in their sourcing, particularly from places like Peru that lack robust centralized infrastructure for facilitating aggregation of coffee, sampling, and export. The success of Origin has made coffees from Peru, previously overlooked by many specialty roasters outside of needs for certified coffees, core offerings on the menus of some of the most well-known specialty coffee roasters in the world.


Country Context

Though it shares a border with Colombia and Brazil—the largest coffee producers in South America, and the third- and first-largest exporter of Arabica in the world, respectively—Peru’s status as a producer of high-quality Arabica remains relatively unrecognized in comparison with its neighbors. For the century following its introduction to Peru by Jesuit missionaries in the mid-18th century, coffee was grown primarily for domestic consumption. After defaulting on a bond to the British government stemming from expenses related to its war of independence against Spain as well as the War of the Pacific, Peru signed the Grace Contract in 1886. The Grace Contract retired Peru’s debt in exchange for granting Britain mining rights, control of Peru’s railway for a period of 66 years, as well as the transfer of 1.8 million hectares of highlands to the British government. Nearly a quarter of this land was developed by the British for agricultural purposes as a way to extract value from Peru—including the planting of large-scale coffee estates—leading to the growth of coffee exports beginning in 1887.

Indigenous peoples who lived in the highlands above the plantations provided the labor for the farms—either through debt bondage or in search of prosperity—and when the British withdrew from Peru, indigenous people took over use of the land or purchased it from the British, becoming smallholder coffee growers. The Agrarian Reform in the 1960s continued this process, transferring land from large estate holders to indigenous people and campesinos in the Cusco region as well as organizing farm workers into cooperatives. Those cooperatives produced over 80% of the coffee exported under the International Coffee Agreement’s quota system, delivering those revenues back to state-supported cooperatives. Reliance on the ICA’s framework, however, led to stagnation in the country’s trading system, undermining smallholder welfare and the strength of the cooperatives: “The cooperatives, with sales guaranteed, made no effort to improve their operations. The majority continued to be small and were often characterized by inflexibility, nepotism, and corruption.”

When the ICA fell apart in 1989, export prices collapsed. The neoliberal policies of Alberto Fujimori curtailed support of the markets in pursuit of free market principles and dissolved the Agrarian Bank. Without its own structure and mechanisms in place to replace the ICA, Peru’s exports suffered, trade routes fell apart and farmers in the rural countryside suffered. Economic insecurity led to the formation of the Shining Path movement. The violence unleashed both by Shining Path guerrillas and the government’s response caused the rural population to flee to the cities, further deteriorating trade routes, agricultural support services, credit, and agricultural production. Without strong export systems and without national support, many farmers—particularly the indigenous in Southern Peru—turned to the production of coca.

But where coffee production persisted, organic certification and certification through Fair Trade became a mechanism through which coffee growers could earn better prices for their coffee. While these certification schemes did not improve qualities, they did increase incomes, leading to the growth of the coffee sector and additional planting. Today, Peru remains the highest-volume exporter of certified organic coffee in the world with main production regions for specialty coffee in the north (Cajamarca , San Martín and Amazonias), central (Junín) and south (Cusco and Puno) of the country.

With elevations soaring above 2,000 meters, unique microclimates suitable for the production of high quality coffee and traditional varieties like Typica (over 70% of plantings) as well as exotics like Gesha from the FAO Mission to Ethiopia in 1964, Peru’s potential for quality is high. And while 75% of coffee in Peru is produced by its 223,000 smallholders whose farms are, on average, smaller than 3 hectares, just 25% of those smallholders are organized into formal cooperatives—many of which structurally lack motivation or leadership to adapt to new market conditions and create opportunities for their members. By providing market access and direct connection with quality-oriented roasters, Crop to Cup works to support the growth and development of the smallholder coffee sector in Peru.