By Lily Kubota, Content & Communications Manager, SCAA
Last week—from October 15th through 18th—over 13,000 coffee professionals from around the world gathered in Bogotá, Colombia for ExpoEspeciales Café de Colombia. The tradeshow was also host to a number of coffee events, including the 10th Colombian Barista Championship and the 5th National Coffee Cup Tasters Championship, as well as the 4th International Women in Coffee Alliance (IWCA) Convention.
During the opening ceremonies for the event, Roberto Vélez—the newly elected CEO of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation—addressed an auditorium with over 700 coffee industry professionals from around the world, and was greeted with cheers when he said, “Welcome to all the women coffee producers!”
Other inspirational coffee leaders that spoke during the Opening Ceremonies included Mery Santos, the IWCA’s President; the UN Women’s Regional Director for the Americas and The Caribbean, Luiza Carvalho; the Executive Director of the International Coffee Organization (ICO), Robério Oliveira; and Yíver Vargas of the IWCA’s Colombia chapter.
IWCA Convention speakers joined the audience for the Opening Ceremonies, including Daniele Giovannucci of the Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA), Kimberly Easson of the Coffee Quality Institute, and SCAA’s Executive Director Ric Rhinehart. Also in attendance from SCAA staff were Mansi Chokshi, Director of Membership, and Kim Elena Ionescu, Director of Sustainability.
Rhinehart noted, “The Opening Ceremonies of ExpoEspeciales and IWCA’s Convention was inspiring and really set the tone for the next few days of learning and collaborating on critical issues for our industry.”
Many SCAA members were also present at the event, such as IWCA board member Jennifer Gallegos of Fair Trade USA, lead organizer for the IWCA convention. Mansi Chokshi, a fellow board member, commented, “As a volunteer, Jennifer worked tirelessly to see this event through. She went above and beyond, which resulted in a hugely successful show with fantastic speakers, and equally impressive attendees from around the world.” Along with Gallegos and the rest of the IWCA Board of Directors, IWCA chapter representatives from around the world came to be a part of the convention.
The stated goal of ExpoEspeciales—organized by the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) and Corferias, and supported by ProColombia—was to “explore the possibilities for increasing growth and prosperity throughout the global coffee community.” The event represented the entire coffee value chain at a national and international level, bringing together growers, trade associations, NGOs, retailers, brands, educators, baristas, and general coffee enthusiasts. Andrés Valderrama, Corferias’ director, noted that this edition of ExpoEspeciales is without a doubt the largest to date, with 120 exhibitors in more than 3,000 square meters of exhibition area.
The show floor was buzzing, with exhibitors from all segments of the industry present, inviting attendees in to their booths with coffee and sweets. There were ample opportunities to taste Colombian coffees from various regions, and the booths for each of the regions were well represented by coffee farmers and local organizations, often dressed in matching hats or t-shirts.
The second annual “match-making forum” (specialty coffee business roundtables) was also held during the show, organized by the FNC and Procolombia, which created business commitments worth $7.2 million. “We are very pleased to see the dynamism that existed during these roundtables. As a result, this second version greatly exceeded our expectations, which further translates into more long-term relationships and greater security both for buyers and coffee growers,” said Roberto Vélez.
The IWCA Convention was held on Thursday and Friday, during the first two days of the Expo. Speakers came from around the world to give talks and be a part of the panel discussions. They explored topics ranging from market trends to sustainability, but there was a clear spotlight on gender equity in the coffee value chain. Over 400 attendees from 30 countries were in attendance for this event.
During the IWCA Convention, Rhinehart led two panel discussions on the state of the consumer market around the world, with panelists from China, Japan, Taiwan, India, and Australia in one segment. The other segment focused on the market in Europe and the United States. “This was a good opportunity for those on the producing side of the supply chain to gain some key insights on the current trends in specialty coffee in consuming countries,” Rhinehart commented.
The convention brought to light some key research that has been done in the realm of gender equity. “Although this is the fourth iteration of the IWCA Convention, there was a distinct sense that this conversation is gaining momentum and will continue for as long as it takes to see the kind of change we need in order to ensure a more equitable landscape for women in coffee,” noted Kim Elena Ionescu, who has been involved with the Sustainability Council of the SCAA for several years. Since stepping into her new role as SCAA’s Director of Sustainability, she has seen the release of several new projects focused on gender equity in the supply chain, including SCAA’s white paper, A Blueprint for Gender Equality in the Coffeelands, and CQI’s recently released report.
CQI founded the Partnership for Gender Equity in the fall of 2014, with the objective to illuminate how gender inequality at origin impacts coffee outcomes and the well-being of producers – and to determine how to respond. Kimberly Easson, CQI’s Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Gender Program Advisor, spoke about the need to address this issue together, as an industry, and cited the report for more information on how to get involved. “Gender equality is the basis for a sustainable coffee industry (…), it is a strategic level for everything we wish to attain: Quality coffee, reliable supply, healthy coffee families and communities and a vibrant industry for future generations,” said Easson.
The IWCA was held in conjunction with ExpoEspeciales for the first time this year, and although the conference will be held in a different country next time, Chokshi commented, “We are so grateful to the FNC and ExpoEspeciales for their hospitality and for graciously hosting our Convention this year. We hope to continue collaborating with the coffee growers of Colombia and working towards solutions for our industry.”