Fairtrade Fortnight: A visit from Mitchell Ricky, HOAC, PNG

During Fairtrade Fortnight (August 2–15, 2019), JBL were lucky enough to host Mitchell Ricky in NZ.

Mitchell is a third generation coffee farmer and member from the Highland Organic Agricultural Cooperative (HOAC) based in the Okapa region of Papua New Guinea. As well as growing coffee, Mitchell studied a Bachelor of Commerce in the University of Technology in Lae and is now working for Coffee Connections (HOAC’s export partner) in their coffee logistics and export team. At 28 years old, he represents the next generation of coffee farmers benefiting from the long term impacts of Fairtrade in the community.  

John Burton’s have had a long standing relationship with the HOAC, purchasing coffee from them since 2001 when they were first founded.

During his presentation, Mitchell spoke about how much the Fairtrade Premiums (a dollar value paid over and above the Fairtrade price) mean to his community. Using these premiums, they are able to improve the social, economic and environmental conditions of their community. They have bought items, such as depulpers (removes the cherry from the bean), to improve the coffee quality, and enabled their community to have access to fresh water.

‘Here you have 5 taps in one house, at home we have 5 houses to one tap’. Mitchell Ricky

He also spoke about the struggles HOAC are facing due to the changing climate. The unpredictability of harvest times is creating uncertainty and forcing families to decide whether they harvest their cash crop (produced for its commercial value rather than for use by the grower) or harvest the food they grow in their gardens to feed their families. 

One of the major concerns for the coffee growers, and the local communities in the area around HOAC, is poor road access, making it difficult for them to export their coffee to Goroka. To address this problem, HOAC used a proportion of their Fairtrade premium to improve the local roads. This has helped improve their access to market and increase business for small coffee farmers. The maintenance of the roads is done by local residents that live alongside and near to the roads, providing them with paid work.

By partnering with Fairtrade, we will continue to put farmers on the world map.

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