Formed in response to the feeling that their coffee was not appreciated within their own market, the Aruco Cooperative was established in 2006 with 14 farmers. Their desire was to access markets whose pricing would reflect their coffees’ true quality. In 2013, the cooperative began a micro-lot program aimed at producing high scoring washed, honey and natural specialty grade coffees. Falcon was first introduced to Aruco during the 2015/16 harvest, when we purchased 4 micro-lots from the cooperative. Seeing the potential of this group, Falcon invested in a quality development program in collaboration with Aruco at the start of the 2016/17 harvest.
The aim of the project was to produce high-quality micro-lots via a centralised mill, giving small producers access to specialty markets and price premiums. The project started with 25 small holders with Falcon provided training, technical support, and expertise to help boost crop quality. We pre-contracted a given volume of micro-lots at premium prices, thus allowing Aruco to manage the risk across the supply chain by ensuring higher income to its members. In the 2016/17 season an additional $60,840 in quality premiums to the 25 member producers. In the first year of the project the cup scores on all lots improved by an average of 3.45 SCAA points. In the first season Falcon bought 225 bags of micro-lots at strong price premiums
Aruco supports its members with technical assistance, quality and yield improvement, and financial support, all while promoting responsible farming in harmony with the environment – the cooperative is organic certified.
By 2021, we witnessed volumes grow to over 1,250 bags of specialty micro-lots each year under the watchful eye of the Head of Speciality Micro-lot Processing, Carlos Alfredo Estevez. For the 2019-2020 harvest, we had 37 producers in the project with an average cup score of 86.84. The average FOB price paid to Aruco was USD 7.50/kg. By 2021 Aruco supported over 200 producers, with 100 involved in the micro-lot programme, 40% of which are women.
In 2020, Aruco built a new warehouse to store the micro-lots, and in 2021, with the support of a grant from the Honduran Government, they built a specialty micro-lot dry milling line to process the lots for export (they had previously relied on larger local milling plants for this). There are now (2021) over 1,000 raised beds for the processing of micro-lots. The new milling plant was officially opened by the President of Honduras in April 2021. This vertical integration allows them to control the process from farm to FOB and export the coffees themselves, capturing maximum value.
In November 2020, Hurricanes Eta and Lota devastated Honduras, damaging more than 4,000 hectares of coffee farms and destroying vital infrastructure. This resulted in the loss of approximately 80,000 bags of coffee, which had a huge impact on the coffee community around Aruco. Through a combination of direct donations from Falcon Coffees, our GoFundMe page and 20c/lb for all our invoiced Honduran coffees in December and January of that year, Falcon donated a total of $8,400 to the cause, $5,050 of which was directly donated to Aruco. This allowed Aruco to support their producers, as well as the wider community, by repairing damaged roads.