Coffee has traditionally been a commodity product sold in a highly competitive and saturated global market. This lack of product differentiation has made coffee farmers very vulnerable to fluctuating prices.
During the last decade, the coffee industry is undergoing a process of decommoditisation, offering an opportunity for farmers to differentiate their coffee in terms of sustainability and quality and to commercialise it more directly. However, smallholder farmers face productivity and transactional constraints that inhibit them from accessing these higher-value market segments. Intermediaries are needed to connect them with this new market. In this article, we present a cross-case study analysis of three ‘connective businesses’ that are facilitating direct trade relationships between smallholder farmers and speciality coffee roasters.
This article comes from the IDS Bulletin 46.3 (2015) Smallholder Farmers in the Speciality Coffee Industry: Opportunities, Constraints and the Businesses that are Making it Possible