The Woman Behind PANGOA Coffee – by Marianne Pemberton

For me, one of the absolute best parts of Fairtrade is the connection it can establish between producers and consumers. I’ve come to grips with the fact that I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to supply chains, but understanding where my food comes from and the path it takes to get to my plate (or cup) is just really cool. Needless to say, when a visit from Peruvian co-op manager Esperanza Dionisio Castillo was scheduled into my calendar after just two weeks on the job I was thrilled.

After just a few minutes of listening to Esperanza in Ethical Bean’s conference room I realized that she isn’t your regular, everyday co-op manager.

The seed of PANGOA

During the coffee crisis of the early 2000s, Esperanza was trying to help farmers make ends meet as the market price of coffee plummeted when she noticed another cooperative (La Florida, who Ethical Bean has also bought from) that appeared to be thriving in comparison. Esperanza did some investigating and discovered that it was Fairtrade certification – and the minimum price it guarantees farmers – that had helped her coffee colleagues overcome the challenges of a low coffee market. Within five years she had led the charge to ensure PANGOA complied with both Fairtrade and Organic certification standards, and today PANGOA’s coffee can be found from Vancouver Island to Eastern Europe.

By focusing on the export of high quality, Fairtrade certified Organic coffee (and more recently, chocolate), Esperanza has helped to ensure that PANGOA benefits from a considerably higher coffee price than has ever been seen before. In fact, the combination of record-breaking highs on the conventional coffee market and the premiums of selling high quality Fairtrade Organic coffee has meant a boom in demand for coffee like PANGOA’s. When our Director of Coffee, Aaron De Lazzer, enthusiastically asked about the current availability of their beans, Esperanza happily explained that all their most recently harvested coffee was sold. Luckily, we had already secured some of this year’s sold out crop and have started roasting it this week!

The pay-offs of fair coffee

Esperanza credited the Fairtrade minimum price and premium for many of the social safety nets and community projects organized by the co-operative members. During the course of our meeting she explained how Fairtrade has led to:

> long-term planning and stability due to the guaranteed minimum price
> regular access to health care
> collective funds for emergency health treatment and community funeral services
> scholarship and loan opportunities for member’s children
> cars, trucks, and transport services to centralized coffee production facilities
> technical support and research to improve the output of organic farming practices

We were all particularly excited to hear that PANGOA had recently built a coffee lab, roastery, and coffee shop to ensure not only that members are able to assess the quality of their coffee, but also that it can be enjoyed by the locals.

Esperanza’s visit was an apt reminder that the coffee world – particularly the Fairtrade coffee world – rests on partnership, collaboration, and quality. As Aaron thanked Esperanza for taking such care and attention to producing the coffee we love, the gratitude was quickly returned as Esperanza thanked us for an ever increasing demand for their Fairtrade Organic coffee.

Learn more about PANGOA and Esperanza below – and keep checking your Ethical Bean coffee bags to see if your Peruvian beans are benefitting the members of PANGOA.

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