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Café TimorFounded in 1994
Members: 19,000+ small-scale coffee farmers in 16 organic cooperatives
Coffee: Washed Arabica, SHB, Organic Certified
Coffee Characteristics: Sweet nutty flavor, medium acidity and smooth body
East Timor coffee production is small in the global coffee context, producing less than one percent of the international total. Nevertheless, coffee is crucial to the country’s overall economy. It is the most important source of foreign exchange for East Timor and it serves as the primary source of income for about one-fourth of the country’s population, or some 44,000 families.
Cooperativa Café Timor (CCT) was founded in the wake of the destruction of much of East Timor after it gained independence from Indonesia in 1999. In 2000, a group of farmers, in an attempt to successfully market their coffee internationally, united to form CCT. Today, the organization has grown to include 19,600 members from 16 base cooperatives and 494 small-scale farmer groups. CCT obtained Fair Trade certification from Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International (FLO) in 2001 and has since greatly benefited from the Fair Trade price.
After the 1999 referendum for independence, the Indonesian army and its militias devastated East Timor’s coffee industry by killing and displacing farmers and their families, stealing and destroying most of the coffee crop, and destroying roads, warehouses, and other infrastructure vital to the industry. But with support since 1994 from the US National Cooperative Business Association, some 19,000 small-scale coffee farmers have organized in 16 organic cooperatives and 493 producer groups to create a national cooperative structure known as the Cooperativa Café Timor. Since the 1999 referendum, the NCBA project has worked quickly and under difficult conditions, in order to help East Timor farmers export their crop.
Positive results from these collective efforts are already being seen in the countryside. Café Timor is the only independent producer of wet-milled coffee, which significantly increases its quality and market value. NCBA funds and coffee premiums have also helped Café Timor set up a network of eight fully operational clinics and 24 mobile clinics, making them the largest provider of rural health care in the country!
Still, a long road lies ahead to rebuild East Timor, ranging from basic needs for education and training to the repair of physical infrastructure and the implementation of “farmer friendly” government policies. But for now, expanding East Timor’s access to the Fair Trade coffee market is considered the best alternative.
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