More than 5,000 people attend PRF Colombia

  • PRF Colombia took place on 14 & 15 September, attracting over 5,000 people
  • The event is estimated to have generated more than $12.5 million for local businesses
  • For the first time, the No Filter panel series hosted challenging but essential conversations to drive the industry forwards

ON 14 & 15 September, Producer & Roaster Forum (PRF) returned to Plaza Mayor in Medellín, Colombia. The two-day event is the largest producer-led event in the coffee industry – something which was reflected by the thousands of people who attended.

PRF Colombia is estimated to have generated more than US $12.5 million for local businesses, as well as more than US $1.5 million in tourism spending. It also created 300 jobs and welcomed volunteers from 25 countries.

But as well as offering opportunities for coffee industry stakeholders to network, PRF hosted a range of expert speeches, lectures and panel discussions.

As part of this, the No Filter panel series debuted at this year’s event. Given that coffee production is at the centre of every PRF event, the No Filter series sought to address some of the most pressing issues facing coffee producers today – and hear from those affected.

Henry Wilson, founder of PDG Global, acted as a mediator in each discussion. His role was to ensure the No Filter panels provided a platform for panellists to have a structured discussion.

“Coffee farmers the world over face a range of challenges, and there are plenty of different opinions about how to approach each of these,” Henry says. “We felt it was important to offer an open, neutral platform to discuss these issues and allow for free-flowing debate – that was the intention behind the No Filter panels.”

Each panel lasted 35 minutes: the first 15 minutes comprised a presentation about the topic at hand, which was then debated by panellists for the following 20 minutes.

Commercial or specialty: Which has a bigger impact on the producers’ livelihoods? 

In this panel, Rubén Gallozzi Cálix, Scarlette Soanny Zeron, and Luis Velez discussed the economic benefits and long-term sustainability of specialty coffee in comparison to commercial coffee.

While specialty coffee production can result in higher prices, it does require a greater investment into quality and sustainability. Broadly speaking, the responsibility for that investment falls on the farmer.

On the other hand, commercial coffee is an important source of income for many coffee farmers – reliable and stable year-on-year, in spite of lower prices. This can expose producers to a different type of risk. 

Ultimately, the panel concluded that there is no one-size-fits-all answer – and that the best approach depends on a given farmer’s situation. In many cases, panellists noted that growing both specialty and commercial coffee could allow farmers to diversify and minimise risk. 

What is more important: The price per pound or the cost of production?

Discussions about price are extremely prevalent in the coffee industry, whether we’re looking at high-level coffee auctions or the C price on the NYSE. But there is a clear argument that the cost of production is just as important – if not more so. 

In this panel, Piotr Kotarba, Jonathan Moral, and Juan Ricardo Gómez spoke about the challenges Colombia faced in 2022, such as rising operational costs and reduced productivity – which disproportionately affected smaller farms.

Panellists discussed appropriate responses to these challenges, including focusing on improving coffee quality, using fertiliser more efficiently, continuing education, and establishing long-term trading relationships.

Beyond microlots: Every coffee has a market

In this panel, Olga Cuellar Gomez, Francesco Sanapo, and Dale Harris talked about how to better align supply and demand in the coffee industry. 

The proposition was simple: by identifying the value generated at origin and matching that with a corresponding consumer segment that operates on a similar value system, each coffee can find its specific market. 

Competitions & other activities

As well as the No Filter panels, PRF Colombia also hosted four coffee competitions. The first of these was the second-ever Global Coffee Roasting Contest. This competition featured a unique judging format that included a technical assessment from judges, as well as a popular vote to determine the “people’s choice” winner.

Alejandro Macías was the technical winner (as decided by judges), and received a ROEST sample roaster, while Alejandro Gonzales was voted as the people’s choice winner and received an SCA Coffee Skills Program voucher.

As well as this, the third edition of the Toddy Cold Brew Championship at PRF Colombia saw Jean Pierre Acero Cechetti, Nicolás Gonzales, and Yeison Leandro Buitrago come first, second, and third respectively.

The third competition held at PRF Colombia was the Campeonato de Olla: a championship honouring café de olla, a traditional Latin American brewing method. David Alejandro Galeano Díaz was the winner, with two runners-up: Fernando Pedroza and Nicolás Tovar.

The final competition at the event was the Fibtex Championship. The coffee packaging company launched this competition to recognise Latin American producers growing high-quality coffee. Green coffee samples were submitted, roasted and cupped prior to the event – and two winners were announced: Zurcos Historia in first place and Erick Bracou in second.

PRF will return on 7 & 8 March 2024 – and the next event will be held in Guatemala. The two-day forum was last held in Guatemala four years ago, and is once more expected to draw thousands of attendees.