Luis Genaro Munoz
The Man On The Ground
Colombia's powerful FNC, the colombian coffee-growers federation, is owned by half a million small independent producers. It will not compromise on quality, sustainable development or the environment, and is a special partner for Nespresso. We met its president, Luis Genaro Muñoz, in Bogotá.
THE FNC IS A UNIQUE KIND OF ORGANISATION – WHAT IS ITS MISSION?
Luis Genaro Muñoz. Since its foundation in 1927, the National Federation of Colombian Coffee-growers (FNC) has been serving its owners – the 500,000 coffee producers, 98% of whom farm less than twelve acres. Alone, they would be unable to meet the challenges of cultivating and selling coffee and the associated research. The same goes for managing rural development or preserving the environment. These are missions that the FNC can perform because it is democratic by its very nature. Everyone is involved in its management. The turnout in our last elections was as high as 65%. We create a social fabric, which is essential for developing countries. I would go further – the FNC belongs to Colombians and to everyone who loves Colombian coffee. So a range of intelligent partnerships, like the one we have entered into with Nespresso, allows us to close the loop between a cup of delicious Rosabaya de Colombia and the bush that produced it. This connection between consumers and producers contributes to sustainable development. We are very proud of it.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IS AT THE HEART OF THE NESPRESSO AAA SUSTAINABLE QUALITY™ PROGRAM. HOW DO THE COFFEE-GROWERS RESPOND TO THIS COMMITMENT?
L. G. M. : For them it means improving their standard of living. When our partnership with Nespresso began in 2004, 470 farmers were involved. By the end of 2010, there were 33,500 farmers involved in the AAA Program for the Rosabaya de Colombia. This has pushed up their income: first of all by spreading the profits along the producer-consumer chain. And secondly, because the technical assistance, which is a central aspect of the agreement with Nespresso, ensures progress and profits. Coffee-growers have to keep learning and adapting their strategies, and the AAA Program encourages technology transfer. With Nespresso, we are creating better living conditions in relation to productivity and the environment, and this has knock-on effects in terms of quality and protection for the family.
WHAT MEANS DOES THE FNC HAVE TO MAKE ITS GOALS A REALITY?
L. G. M. : If you ask the coffee growers that question, they will say “the Extensionistas”. These 1500 local agronomists support them and communicate the latest innovations that might help them with their work. But beyond agricultural work, they have two other jobs. First, they help producers improve daily life, providing support with accounting, daily hygiene, accommodation and more. Secondly, they work on raising awareness of good environmental practice. We have been mistreating our planet for years – it is time to give something back. These Extensionistas are a key means of rolling out the AAA Program.
THE PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN THE FNC AND NESPRESSO HAS BEEN VERY SUCCESSFUL. TELL US ABOUT HOW IT HAS WORKED.
L. G. M. : It has been a fruitful partnership based on trust. For example, the Rosabaya de Colombia came about because the FNC and Nespresso wanted to offer the best in Colombian coffee. To this end, our experts went to examine the coffee-growing regions and the country’s coffee bush varieties. We analysed winds, altitudes and cultivation methods. We then worked with Nespresso to identify the best aromatic profiles for creating this Grand Cru which was an immediate hit with consumers. A real sustainable-development project then came about, fully connected to the AAA Program and now involving 33,500 families from Cauca and Nariño, set to be 40,000 in 2013. Another approach was the late-harvested Naora Limited Edition. This is a delicious espresso involving an extraordinary project initiated by Nespresso. Naora’s over-ripening opens the door for the strategy of the FNC, which wants to create specific niche markets at the top of the range. Naora provides consumers with a unique coffee, and its effects are felt by the producers. Once again, sustainable development is the backdrop for the FNC and Nespresso, and the whole chain gets added value. Of course, there are some big challenges that need to be met at the same time…
WHAT CHALLENGES DOES THE FNC NEED TO DEAL WITH?
L. G. M. : One of many would be understanding what consumers want. Nespresso has achieved this exceptionally well. We, the producers, need to adopt an identical approach – what region should we grow in and how should we do so in order to respond to the market? How can we protect the unique character of Colombian coffee, which is, and will remain, the best coffee in the world? The way forward involves sustainability served by a technological approach to cultivation which is environmentally responsible and able to ensure economic improvement for the families and communities who devote their lives to it.
Text : Francis Dolric - Photography : Julián Lineros