Wednesday, May 29, 2013

McDonald's invests $6.5M in sustainable coffee program

I am definitely not a big fan of McDee. I seldom eat there, and no comments about their healthy menu options. But I have to confess that I do like this approach to sourcing their coffee. (Read the article). At least their coffee that comes from Guatemala.
In short, McDonalds will invest close to $7 Million in Guatemala, to run a project that will seek to source coffee in a sustainable manner. It has already engaged with two very reputable organizations, that work on expert solutions to agricultural problems. SCAN and Technoserve.

I also like the fact that they have made an effort to partner with these organizations, and not try to go at it alone. And finally I like their approach to financing the operation. As opposed to getting funds from their Treasury or CRS platform, they have charged each of their North American franchises, $1000 to participate. At such a low cost per store, this has been an immediate "buy in" from store managers.
I like it!
I wonder where they source their chocolate from? Thats a different story.

Walmart and Small Farmers (in Nicaragua)

In 2010, Walmart announced a “global commitment to sustainable agriculture” that set forth the goal that by 2015 the company would sell $1 billion in food sourced from 1 million small and medium farmers worldwide. In 2012, Walmart was the world's third largest public corporation, with 8,500 retail stores in fifteen countries. Their operations in the developing world increasingly are designed to source directly from small and medium farmers.

However, the jury is still out when it comes to the benefits to small farmers in linking to corporations like Walmart. An interesting analysis is done in Nicaragua by a recent publication in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics. The study concludes that there is not enough evidence, over a period of 8 years, to confirm that farmers did indeed benefit in terms of welfare. Very generalistic comment. But worth digging into.
Read the article.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Blog

I started this blog a while ago in an attempt to share my adeventures in home coffee roasting. Then just dropped it for lack of time and effort a while ago. I plan to revive it but this time, with more content around a subject of my interest. Sustainable sourcing of food and agriculture. Read on if your are interested. Comment, email or share as you see your spirit guides. I really dont claim to be an expert on any of the issues posted. I see the postings as a way for me to track the articles, documents, meetings, conferences and experiences that I find interesting and worth tracking. They may not necessarily on a timeline that is sequential. So beware.

The title of the blog, as some of you may wonder, actually comes from a TEDx presentation I did around the subject. And my good friend Michelle Perez, whom used to work with us at the MIF, helped me put together.

Happy eating, drinking and reading...

I love this picture. Can you guess what it is? And where it was taken? (country that is)


Guide to Sustainable Food Sourcing - Worth the Read...

This is a nice introduction to the complex topic of sustainable sourcing. In the past few years I have had the chance to meet with and interview dozens of food companies and firms that source from small farmers. There is a trend and a growing interest in source from small farmers in a sustainable manner. Not sure where this will all go. But it sure is worth following.
In light of this, I highly recommend the reading below. Its a practical guide for companies, but it is quite general for all audiences. It was published last month by Business for a Better World.

Picture of Haitian coffee nursery

From the summary: "Global demand for food, feed, and fiber is expected to rise by 70 percent as the population grows, incomes rise, and a larger proportion of people settle in urban areas. This demand will put greater pressure on securing supply, while the constraints on land, energy, water, and other inputs required by agriculture will also increase.
Faced with these challenges, many companies are seeking to incorporate sustainability into their sourcing programs. For large, consumer-facing companies in particular, connecting down to the farm level can be challenging, since global supply chains are complex and often include thousands—if not millions—of farmers. As these companies seek to better understand the risks and opportunities associated with production of their agricultural inputs, they’re asking questions: Where do I start? How do I prioritize where to deploy resources? What are my risks and opportunities for innovation? How do I integrate sustainability considerations into procurement decision-making?
To help companies navigate the path to a sustainable sourcing strategy that supports future growth, BSR contributed to the publication of “Sustainable Sourcing of Agricultural Raw Materials: A Practitioner’s Guide,” which was developed through a unique collaboration among seven high-profile organizations.* The guide provides a set of practical questions and suggestions for implementing sustainable sourcing, highlighting examples of steps being taken by a range of companies including the Coca-Cola Company, McDonald’s, PepsiCo, Starbucks, Unilever, and Walmart."

GMOs - Does your food have them?

Not completely sure what GMOs are. But I sure would like to know if they are in my foods, and the food that my children eat. A little heard of protest went on in LA this past week, precisely to raise this issue. Dont we have a right to know if our food contains Genetically Modified Organisms. Why are food giants and agricultural corporations so opposed to informing the public what is it that we eat?
Question was raised by a Vermont Senator and a vote took place in the Senate last week. At least now the State if Vermont will requite labels to be clear on the issue, just like most other developed countries in the world. Why does the US not take a stand? Big money again and again.