Intersection Traders’ new model of ethical trading comes at a price

Image Source: Intersection Trader’s Instagram @intersectiontraders

By Meika Bottrill | @meikabottrill 

At night, the Lion Arts Factory is a hub for live music and gigs, but by day, Intersection Traders occupies the space providing customers with ethically traded and sustainable coffee.

Owners Adam Marley, Eddy Collet and Daniel Gregg transformed the space into a dimly lit industrial café with copious amounts of room for studying or socialising after Fowlers Live closed its doors in late 2018.

After studying a Bachelor of Science majoring in forestry and natural resource management forest at the Australian University in Canberra, Eddy quickly realised he wanted to start a café.

“When I finished school, I travelled around South America and got really excited about coffee and coffee growing regions,” he said.

“I met Daniel at a yoga class. We were chatting coffee and I guess it just kind of grew into this.”

Daniel Gregg currently works for Adelaide University as an economics lecturer.

He was also a researcher at Adelaide University on a project funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) that was working on developing value chains for coffee in Uganda.

The project focused on producing a synergy between improving farmers’ livelihoods, the quality of coffee, and how it gets marketed in the final destination.

Africa and South America are two of the largest growing coffee producers in the world.

However, they have a large issue with underpaying the farmers in developing countries who work to supply them with beans, resulting in them producing a lower quality of coffee.

According to Perfect Daily Grind, Fairtrade prices stand at $2.33-$2.74/lb for Arabica and $2.17-$2.33/lb for Robusta.

Farmers are also required to invest at least five cents of that in quality/productivity improvement measures.

“Part of the reason we can afford to drink coffee is that the people who are doing the manual work are not paid as much,” Adam said.

“There is this demand signal to producers to produce lower quality coffee because people aren’t willing to pay.

“So we are kind of flipping that by paying accordingly to improve the quality of the coffee.”

Before Intersection Traders became involved, the project had been running for two years, and had reached a halt in the program.

The project organisers needed a private sector which was willing to participate in a buying program, where they provide farmers with a higher price for their work, in order to progress.

The program has tried to work with some of the existing coffee companies in Uganda, but they were not able to participate in the way they needed to.

“That’s what Intersection grew out of: the need to have a company supporting some research and taking a bit of a gamble to support this really interesting buying program focused on improving farmers’ livelihoods,” Eddy said.

“What we are trying to do is demonstrate that if we pay people a bit more, we improve the quality and still have a profitable business doing that.

“Which in the [coffee] industry, is probably more of an exception than a rule in how it operates.”

The boys acknowledge that this concept is hard work, but they are determined to prove it can be done.

“We are deliberately not a not-for-profit, because we want to demonstrate to the really big importers and exporters [that] paying your farmers a lot more than they are currently receiving can be done and can be profitable,” Adam said.

“Some farmers can’t afford to invest in taking care of their land, or growing their produce organically if they don’t even have enough money to take their kids to school.

“Paying them enough can actually start to help them pull themselves out of poverty.”

But it is a domino effect.

In order to pay more for coffee beans and remain profitable, cafes have had to raise their prices, and consumers have had to be willing to pay more for a cup of coffee.

“Price is such a powerful way that makes consumers decide where they buy their morning coffee,” Adam said.

“It’s choosing what is most important to you, and where your money goes.

“Everyone needs to make that decision themselves. We don’t want to shame someone for choosing to not buy an ethical coffee.

“[But] If people want to buy sustainably farmed and ethically traded coffee, they’re going to need to pay more for it.”

Eddy compares this concept to paying a little bit extra for a craft beer than you would for a cheaper one that’s on tap – you know you are getting your money’s worth.

“There is this idea in people’s head about what a coffee is worth, and people don’t extend the same mentality about a craft beer as they may about sustainable coffee.”

Passion for their project seeps through both Adam and Eddy’s body, demonstrating the motivation they have to educate consumers on how their coffee is sourced.

Sustainability requires dedication, and often without the correct resources or education, it can be difficult to understand where your money is going.

But asking questions is important.

Start thinking about where your local café sources their beans, and work out who you want to support and for what reasons.

Intersection Traders is open between Monday – Friday from 7:30am – 2:30pm, and the boys are always open for a chat for any further questions you may have.

 

 

 

 

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