Meet Al Lopez, President & CEO of Finca Terrerito https://www.fincatcoffee.com/. He has an interesting perspective on coffee, but there is a reason for that, based on his personal life experience. His company Finca T is located in the Copan Region of Honduras, but his roasting operation is in Atlanta – http://www.myalmacoffee.com. Finca Terrerito is a 5th generation specialty coffee farm located in Copan, Honduras. They source from their own farms and neighboring farms to ensure the highest quality green bean, directly from their farms to cup! Their coffee is processed using clean well water from 400 ft in the ground and stored in parchment form until exported.
In 2008 Al started his own coffee farm using an innovative model for the benefit of the farm workers and all stakeholders – Al strongly believes there is ample opportunity to farm, process and export quality green bean directly to roasters for a “win-win” for all!
The fascinating thing about this company is their story. https://www.facebook.com/myalmacoffee/videos/535841700405491
The owner, Al Lopez, was born in Honduras into a coffee farming family. His parents divorced when Al was about eight years old and at age eleven, in search of better opportunities, Al Lopez left his small village in Honduras and migrated to south side Chicago where he delivered newspapers on the streets through grade school while working in flea markets on weekends. After serving in the US Army, Al returned to south side Chicago and began working as a factory laborer. He started attending a Junior College and through time earned his bachelor’s degree, MBA, CPA/others. After more than 20 years of corporate experience with fortune 500 companies like Sara Lee Corporation & PepsiCo, Al retired as President & CEO of a publicly held company.
Alma Coffee was co-founded by a service-disabled Army veteran. Their love for this country goes beyond being Veteran Owned. In fact, Alma uses products & equipment made in the U.S.A. as much as possible.
AMPS Magazine had the opportunity to find out what inspired Mr. Lopez to start his business. Says Al “The profitability of the “coffee businesses in the US and EU” is what inspired me to start my coffee farms. You see, through my corporate career I worked for a multinational that had a coffee & tea division with about $9billion in annual sales. I would see how profitable that business was, and I wondered why my family in Honduras, who were coffee farmer many lifetimes over, were always starving! I started my farms with the idea of developing a business model that is good for everyone, a business model where the coffee farmers earn a living wage”.
Pest and disease management, water and nutrient management, labor availability and cost, and other infrastructure facilities, also pose major challenges to produce quality coffee at the farm level. Coffee cultivation helps with the conservation of the ecosystem and plays an important role in many ecological services. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/313828909_Sustainability_Challenges_in_the_Coffee_Plantation_Sector
To ensure his company grows, Al states, “My future growth plans will be focused on bringing other coffee farmers into a cooperative or something similar where I can help them place their coffee around the world to ensure they receive that living wage. For this to occur, I have to generate lots of demand in the markets where coffee is consumed. Contracts with US Government/military/VA can help lots here (I have not been able to get a contract with the government, yet).
Brian Mounts asks the question we are all want to understand, “Where is all the money from the coffee trade going?” One possible issue is that most of the world’s coffee trade is controlled by five companies: Starbucks, Sara Lee, Procter & Gamble, Kraft, and Nestlé. This is enormous control, allowing them to buy coffee from the farmers as cheaply as possible. https://ggccoffee.com/how-much-coffee-farmers-make/. They can afford to buy thousands of tons of coffee and let it rot, just to maintain control of the market.
Originally the International Coffee Agreement was put in place to stabilize the international coffee market and to alleviate the difficulties related to excessive fluctuations in the levels of world supplies, stocks, and prices of coffee. The 1962 and 1983 accords were reached by the coffee-producing and consuming nations of the world to stabilize the international coffee market and to alleviate the difficulties related to excessive fluctuations in the levels of world supplies, stocks, and prices of coffee. It collapsed at the end of the cold war in July 1989.
Ryan Delany asks, “why does coffee farmer poverty persist?” He answers this question on his own blog, “I contend that the coffee farmer poverty exists for two very specific reasons: geography and farm size.”
What Can Be Done?
According to the Coffee Detective Blog, one way to help is to support coffee farmers by buying Fair Trade coffee and quality beans. When you do that, $1.40 per pound goes to the farmer. And that’s a great deal more than coffee farmers usually get, once the various middlemen have taken their cut. Support small coffee farmers (coffeedetective.com). This seems to be the goal of Mr. Lopez. His long journey here appears to have been for a higher purpose.
Mr. Lopez shared a funny story about his early experiences in the U.S. “My first plane ride ever was when I came to the USA. I had never seen a Coke can in my life. I drank about 8 of them and did not want to give the empty cans to the flight attendant. I wanted to send the cans over to my friends in my village so they could see what a Coke looked like in the USA”.
By Chrystal Allen-O’Jon