Monday, June 20, 2011

Not your Normal Business School Internship - A Cup of Excellence

Hello, my name is Kyle Barkett and I am from Muskegon, MI. I study Business/Economics at Wheaton College outside of Chicago. I came down to Honduras because I am very interested in finance, development work as well as helping to relieve poverty.

To wrap up the end of my first week in Honduras as a UMF intern, Patrick Hughes and I woke up at 4 am to travel to San Pedro. The purpose of our long journey was to attend the Honduran National Cup of Excellence Competition. This is an annual coffee competition where coffee farmers compete nationally to have their coffee bought at higher prices. Coffees that place in the national competition get auctioned off, and as a coffee farmer’s place in the competition rises so does the sales price of his coffee. Coffee farmers qualify by producing at least 4,000 lbs. of a single coffee and entering it to be judged by international coffee buyers. Last year’s winner sold for $22 a pound and others that placed were auctioned at prices from $6-13 per pound. Even though I personally do not drink much coffee, attending this event was fascinating. Humble rural farmers from all over the country gathered in an urban setting for their coffees to be judged. These farmers are able to meet international buyers and be recognized for the quality of their coffee. While I sat back and watched all this unfold, Patrick was able to do some awesome networking, meeting the best coffee farmers in the nation, international coffee buyers, IHCAFE engineers, and other Hondurans involved the specialty coffee.

The awards ceremony was held in a very lavish conference center where one of the Vice Presidents of Honduras, the President of the National Coffee Fund and other important people in Honduran coffee handed out the awards. At this important event one would expect wealthy businessman with thousands of acres of coffee to compete, but in reality the farmers were rural farmers with small amounts of land. These farmers from very rural parts of Honduras have traveled a very long way to come to the competition. It was truly amazing to see these farmers come up on stage and be acknowledged and applauded by some of the most high-end and important people in the nation. This could be the only time in these farmers’ lives they are regarded with such high esteem. It took many farmers a while to adjust to the acclaim because they are not used to any acknowledgement. These farmers have toiled over their land in extremely high altitudes in order to produce this quality coffee, and I hope they continue to be recognized in this fashion for their accomplishments.

This competition shows the importance of trying to produce quality coffee and not just quantity. Most coffee farmers are not concerned about the quality of their coffee because local intermediaries buy all coffees at the same price no matter what. These intermediaries just mix all the coffee together and in this process all quality is lost. If quality is encouraged, Honduran farmers and driers will improve their practices to preserve and improve quality, and Honduran coffee will be associated with quality.

Kyle Barkett

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