the coffee market depends on international prices, which have long been
in a slump, ATJ is engaged in alternative trade directly linked to local
growers. The trade, starting from organic coffee from Ecuador, has developed
into Fairtrade Coffee, Asian Coffee Collection, and coffee from East Timor.
of the world's coffee beans are produced by small farmers. At the same time,
coffee symbolizes the South-North relationship. An increasing number of
coffee growers are forced to abandon cultivation to look for jobs in the
cities because of a long depression in coffee prices in the international
Japan is the third-largest importer of coffee. However its coffee market is almost completely monopolized by big trading companies and a couple of big coffee companies. The voices of coffee growers never reach our shores and consumers do not know anything about the coffee they drink everyday. In 1992, faced with this exclusive market, ATJ felt it imperative to launch an alternative coffee trade.
Starting with "Tasty and Organic"
ATJ Coffee Trade started with "Naturaleza", produced in Manabi, Ecuador. Although the trade was not a joint project with the growers, ATJ found the coffee "tasty and organic." When ATJ staff members visited the production area in 1993, they learned that a growers' cooperative would be set up in the near future. Since 1994, ATJ has been importing "Naturaleza", which obtained JAS organic certification in 2001.
Fairtrade Coffee: "Coffee Produced and Processed Together"
Following the start of its coffee trade, ATJ joined hands with TWIN, the British fair trade organization, and got to know many coffee growers' cooperatives that had started collective shipping and/or organic cultivation based on their own experiences in order to counter the depression of the international coffee price in 1990. Growers who used to sell their coffee beans to middlemen organized themselves to collect process and ship their own coffee. ATJ named this coffee, which includes four types; Peru, Mexico, Kilimanjaro, and Blended, "Coffee Produced and Processed Together" and started to sell it n 1996. Three types, Mexico, Peru and Blended, obtained JAS organic certification in 2003.
High Quality and Rare Coffee
The fair trade coffees from Peru and Mexico were not popular in the Japanese market and were difficult to sell as straight coffee. Meanwhile, Brazil and Columbia are famous for coffee production, and the market price of their coffee beans is always high. ATJ set about changing the status through the efforts of the partner cooperatives. In addition to the organic coffee, they selected special coffee beans, Montana Veronica from Peru and Sierra Madre from Mexico, for the private roast market in Japan. In Haiti, meanwhile, many coffee middlemen had left the country because of the political unrest. The producers' cooperative, RECOCARNO, first shipped to Japan in the form of direct trade with ATJ.
Introducing Asian Coffee Collection
From TWIN ATJ learned the European style relationship between producers and fair trade organizations and from the producers in Peru and Mexico we learned of the pride the producers take in their coffee cultivation and of activities they are undertaking to protect their communities. ATJ had also long wanted to start a coffee project with producers in Asia. We then met small farmers engaged in coffee production in the mountains of East Timor and set up a project to support their struggle for self-reliance in cooperation with a Japanese NPO based in Tokyo, Asia-Pacific Resource Center.
East Timor is a small country of 0.9 million people that became independent in May 2002. One quarter of its population support themselves on a once-a-year coffee harvest. Although coffee is virtually the country's only export product, its coffee industry is controlled by foreign capital.
If the farmers could control processing, transportation and exporting, they would become self-reliant. ATJ started to import coffee from East Timor and is now helping farmers to organize themselves, using a system of advance payment, renting machinery and materials for processing, and providing training in quality control in cooperation with PARC. At the same time, ATJ encourages the farmers to grow crops for self consumption aside from coffee beans. While coffee is the means through which we relate to the farmers, ATJ hopes that they will not depend on coffee.