Catracha Coffee Company was established in 2010 when Mayra Orellana-Powell realized her dream of starting a coffee business that would have an impact in the community where she was born and raised, in the municipality of Santa Elena, department of La Paz, Honduras.
Mayra named her business Catracha Coffee Co. because “Catracha” is the nickname for a Honduran woman.
In 2011, from her home in the United States, Mayra made the first connections to the specialty coffee market for 13 small coffee producers from Santa Elena. In 2016, sixty producers sold their coffee in the specialty market through Catracha Coffee.
In 2017, Mayra and her husband Lowell moved back to Santa Elena to continue their efforts to grow Catracha Coffee and contribute to the community.
Mayra’s family has harvested small quantities of coffee on family farms for generations. Coffee has traditionally been their main source of income.
Mayra understands that finding ways to improve the income earned per pound of coffee can impact the choices families are able to make in their daily lives.
The capacity to produce great coffee equals the capacity to earn more income per pound. This concept may seem simple but the production of great coffee involves a complex chain of events. Catracha Coffee offers capacity building opportunities for producers to improve upon their coffee production.
There are more than 400 small farms producing coffee in Santa Elena. Many of the coffee producers sell their coffee (in cherry) to a middleman, ending the potential earnings associated with specialty coffee premiums. Catracha Coffee’s goal is to increase the number of capacity building opportunities until every producer in Santa Elena has an opportunity to produce great coffee and access the specialty coffee market.
In the past year, Catracha has hosted meetings about post-harvest processing to show producers how to calibrate their depulping machines, properly identify and harvest ripe cherries, and manage proper drying protocols. Catracha has also had meetings to discuss plant nutrition, organic fertilizers, pruning techniques, and leaf rust prevention strategies.
Catracha Coffee purchases from small producers and returns the profits from the sale of green coffee directly to the individuals who cultivated and processed the coffee. These families do not have the land or infrastructure to produce large volumes of coffee but they can still improve their earnings per pound with better quality coffee.
Catracha producers are paid twice for their coffee. First, when the dried coffee parchment is delivered to Catracha Coffee (January to March) and then a second payment is made when the coffee has been sold in the specialty coffee market (July).
The total amount of money going into the producer’s pocket or the farm gate price of the coffee each year has been about $2.50 per pound (first payment-$1.00 and second payment-$1.50). The amount paid will very between individual producers and increases depending on the quality of the coffee exported.
With other export models it can be hard to know how much money actually ends up in the producer’s pocket after everyone else in the supply chain is paid. As a point of reference, the Fair Trade minimum is $1.40 per pound FOB. These three letters (FOB) are important because all the costs after the coffee leaves the farm are included in the FOB price and deducted from the amount paid to the producer, which makes it more difficult to know how much the producer actually gets.
With an average farm gate return of $2.50, Catracha producers have a better margin and this allows them to reinvest in their farms. Producers have more to invest in plant nutrition and can pay the labor costs to care for the farm. They can also pay to improve their wet-mills and drying capacity. With the ability to make these investments year after year, the coffee production gets better and so does the opportunity to make even more money.
Then the quality of a producer’s life begins to change. There is more money to buy food and start home improvement projects, like a family food garden. There is also more money to invest in education. And over time, money can be invested in other business opportunities that help a family diversify their sources of income beyond coffee.
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