Producer Profile: Cooperativa Café Timor

Written by Cafe Campesino on Aug 1, 2004 in NEWSLETTER, Producer Profile |

“Coffee is a very good crop for us. We are members of the coffee cooperative, and they give us a good price. Because they buy our coffee fruit, we don’t have to process it. We expanded our coffee farm two years ago, and we will plant more seedlings this year.” – Maria Soares

Maria Soares and her family harvest coffee on their highland farm in the village of Raimerhei located in the central mountains of East Timor, southeast Asia’s newest and poorest country. Her village’s organic coffee cooperative is part of Cooperativa Café Timor (CCT), a processing and marketing organization founded in 1994 and Café Campesino’s trading partner for the last 3 years. While East Timor production is small in the global coffee context, coffee is crucial to the country’s overall economy. It is the most important source of foreign exchange for East Timor and it serves as the primary source of income for about one-fourth of the country’s population, or some 44,000 families.

With support from the US National Cooperative Business Association(NCBA) and US-AID, CCT has grown from 800 families in 1994 to represent some 20,000 small-scale coffee farmers organized in 16 organic cooperatives and 493 producer groups. Together, these farmers have formed one of the largest organic coffee exporting organizations in the world!

Positive results from these collective efforts are already being seen in the countryside. CCT is the only independent producer in the country of wet-milled coffee, a process which significantly increases its quality and market value. By selling their harvest to their own cooperative, farmers receive between 40% and 70% more from CCT than they would from local coffee traders. NCBA funds and coffee premiums have also helped CCT set up a network of eight fully operational clinics and 24 mobile clinics, making them the largest provider of rural health care in the country! Additionally, CCT has established crop diversification projects which include vanilla, shade tree nurseries and cattle projects, as well as training centers for cooperative leadership and small business management.

Still, a long road lies ahead to rebuild East Timor, ranging from basic needs for education and training to the repair of physical infrastructure heavily damaged by 25 years of Indonesian occupation. But for now, East Timor’s participation in the Fair Trade coffee market is considered by many to be one of the clearest examples of how trade can bring positive change to developing countries.

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