Bent Dietrich Jr, Coffee Trader at American Coffee Corporation, chatted with Basilio Fusich, trader at the renowned and highly-regarded Cohonducafé. A coffee exporter in Honduras, Cohonducafé leverages its local knowledge and relationships to share Honduran coffee with every corner of the globe.
The interview below has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
When was Co. Honducafe founded? How did you get your start in the coffee industry and at Co. Honducafe?
November 1999. Coffee has always been part of my life. Ever since I was a kid, coffee has been a topic of conversation. I officially began to work at Honducafe right after I finished my master’s degree in Coffee Economics and Science from Universita del Caffé in Illy in Trieste, Italy.
What is the current socio-economic climate for coffee growers, exporters, and stakeholders in Honduras?
These last couple of years have been very harsh for all parties involved. Back in the 2018/2019 crop, the market was below levels of $100, then during COVID-19 came the 2019/2020 crop, and then we had hurricanes Eta and Iota in [the span of] 15 days for crop 2020/2021 — and are still suffering from the pandemic. Ever since I began in the industry, the country has been climbing uphill every year to be able to export its crop.
What are the biggest challenges young members of the coffee industry face in Honduras?
There is already a lot of competition in the industry and adding the hardships of COVID-19 will make it more challenging. The reason I mention Covid is that the economic impact on small businesses here will be very long term. The economy is extremely dependent on coffee and any changes to the supply chain pressure the entire economy.
The freight rates are increasing, causing all our necessary goods to [go up in price] rapidly. At the end of the day, younger and newer farmers are more susceptible cost increases. The real challenge will be keeping younger people engaged in the industry long-term.
Does Co. Honducafe have any sustainability initiatives in Honduras you are particularly proud of?
We have Fundacion Co. Honducafe, a non-profit organization that promotes the development and improvement of the coffee sector by promoting and supporting initiatives that promote productivity, economic growth, social responsibility and care for the environment.
We have numerous projects with many clients around the world that have built schools in coffee producing areas in Honduras.
We have seen the market rally from around $150 recently to almost $220 and back. For this year, how do you think it will impact Honduran producers? You mentioned previously it was an election year, and coming off last year’s hurricane, there must be many concerns for the industry?
It would have been great for the producers to have these levels at the beginning of the 2019/2020 crop so that they can receive more money and invest in their farms. The timing limited the opportunity for producers to take advantage of the higher prices. We are hoping that this year everything goes smoothly and the industry can work without interruptions from political and natural events.
What do you think NCA Next Gen members should really know about Honduras, and the future of coffee in Honduras?
I invite them to get to know more about our coffee. We have excellent quality that can be promoted in the highest markets of the industry.
Any advice for young people in coffee on growing in the industry?
My advice is to continue the good work that is being done, and always be on the lookout for new technologies that will make coffee growing more efficient and sustainable. Through our foundation, we partner with farmers and producers to continually explore new technologies and inputs to increase their yields and profitability.
What has your experience been working with the NCA?
My experience has been great. It has given me the opportunity to seek new customers and build my network of clients.
Finally, what is your favorite way to consume a cup of coffee?
I will sound boring, but my favorite way to consume my multiple cups of coffee during the day is Americano with no sugar. Especially freshly roasted from my grandfather’s farm.