This month, we catch up with Jonathan Duran, International Sales Manager at CoopeAgri R.L. Jonathan is a familiar face whenever we visit Costa Rica and he consistently exceeds expectations as a gracious host and has always made our trips memorable. Whether it’s his warm hospitality or local recommendations, Jonathan never fails to impress.
We have been partners with CoopeAgri for over 2 decades and treasure the long-term relationship we have built with them. CoopeAgri was established in 1962 by 391 small-scale farmers with the aim of building and sustaining a strong and supportive farmer organisation. This was in part to improve living standards amongst the community but also to provide development opportunities to their communities.
Tell us a little about your journey in Coffee.
I began my journey in coffee in 2002. Immediatelly after, I got my title as Industrial Engineer degree. I worked for CoopeAgri´s roaster for 3 years, and after that I was promoted to work in International sales in Quality Control and Exports. I was out of CoopeAgri and the coffee world for 7 years and since 2012 I am back as the Sales Manager of the Cooperative.
We know you as our contact at Coop Agri, but what does your day to day job actually look like?
My job is actually a bit quiet, in the morning I always follow the market, checking information about the international and national markets.
I spend part of my time in the cupping room, checking the quality of processes, preparations, and exports. On occasion, I visit coffee farms to talk with producers, check their conditions and the conditions of their crops, and look for opportunities for them and the cooperative.
I must share all the details of sales, price, market, and projections with the General Manager and directors. Therefore, a big part of my time is spent making different presentations and statistics. It’s a big commitment, but with the right people around, the job goes smoothly.
How does your job differ from that of a producer? What do you do when it is not harvest season?
My job is vastly different from that of a producer. They have to work in the field all year round, and the harvest is the most important part, as it determines the quality of the production. During the crop, it is very difficult for them. On the contrary, my job is more administrative. I look for the best clients for our products, control the logistics and quality process, and try to get the best price and conditions for their coffees. I have to do this constantly, as the market never stops.
What were you doing before you joined Coope Agri?
I used to work for two private companies in Costa Rica, DHL Express (logistics) and Grupo Nacion (Media) both leaders in their fields.
What do you do in your free time?
I am a family man! I have a large family and I love spending time with my wife and 4 kids. My son is 15 years old, and my 3 daughters are 13, 8, and 2 years old. I personally love to play basketball and I like to go to the gym. My wife is a very athletic woman, my son plays futbol, the older girl likes to play volleyball and the younger one practices Taekwondo, so I have to handle myself very well and stay fit if I want to support them in their hobbies.
We believe you have a fantastic view of Cerro Chirripo! How often do you hike to the peak?
The Cerro Chirripo is incredible, everyday it offers beautiful spectacles from Pérez Zeledón. It is especially beautiful to see it at dawn and in the afternoon light to see how the sun paints it in different colours.
However, reaching the peak is a difficult trip. You must book a spot months in advance and the rate is expensive. You must also walk for 5-6 hours, but the experience is worth it. I have only been twice, though I have had the opportunity to go more times, but work and other responsibilities have prevented me from doing so
Tell us a little bit about the Coope Agri. How many members are there? How does the coop support these producers?
CoopeAgri was born in 1962. Last November 25th was our 60th anniversary. We currently have 4,868 associates, 3,548 of which are coffee producers, 800 employees, and 520 sugar cane producers. 480 associates have both coffee and sugar cane production.
CoopeAgri offers numerous services to its associates, with benefits in the prices, subsides and conditions. These services include a medical service, supermarkets, gas stations, a credit cooperative, an agriculture supply store, a hardware store, and more. But the crucial projects are those where the cooperative support the producers. The most important project is called Agri FRAC (Fondo de Reactivación Agrícola Cafetalera in spanish) where producers have the opportunity to purchase plants from the nursery at production cost and pay 50% for them in the fourth year and the other 50% in the fifth year after purchasing them. This way, the producer will pay for the plants with his own production, avoiding indebtedness.
We understand that Coope Agri collects rainwater. Could you tell us a bit more about this, why you do it and the results of collecting rainwater?
Yes, the coffee mill of CoopeAgri is the only one in the country that uses 100% rainwater for processes. The rainwater is taken from the roofs and from a pluvial lake, which is located on the same property where the coffee mill is situated.
What do you think has changed in the coffee being produced by the cooperative?
The big change I have noticed is the culture around coffee. A few years ago, Coopeagri was the largest coffee producer company in Costa Rica, the volume was the most important, but the quality and technique were not the best. Over the last year, we still working with a very large volumes of coffee (the second largest coffee mill in CR) but the technology in the industry, and the specialization of the employees around quality, the technique and practices in the field, and the compromise of the producers are totally different.
How do you feel the perception of Costa Rican coffee has changed over recent years?
All the changes around Costa Rican coffee come from the specialization, mainly new varieties, new processes, and flavors. The production is moving to the highlands and in the end, the objective is to generate added value to the coffee.
What are the biggest challenges for coffee producers in Costa Rica today?
These are for me the biggest challenges for coffee producers and industries:
- Stay in the market despite the volatility of prices and production costs.
- The generational change, most of the producers in Costa Rica are over 57 years of age, the new generations are seeking for different lifestyles.
- Innovation to maintain the status in the international market, we are so small so the differentiation is the key.
When you’re not drinking coffee, what are you drinking?
Well, I love coffee, but I don´t have a problem with any other type of drinks, but I usually drink NAOX, water and natural juices. In my free time with my wife or with my friends, I really love to drink beer.
Do you have any favourite restaurants that you like to eat at?
No, I love food in all forms, Japanese, Chinese, Costa Rican food, seafood, hamburgers, pizza, everything!!!!.
Are you reading and books or listening to any music at the moment that you’d like to share?
I like to read different kinds of books. The best book that I had read is Pilgrim and also I love to read the Bible. As for music, I like to dance salsa and merengue and listen in my car of in my office I prefer music from 90s like Phill Collins, U2, and others, mainly ballads.
Who is the best football team in Costa Rica?
There is only one option: SAPRISSA!!!!
Outside of Costa Rica, do you have a favourite coffee producing origin?
No, I don´t have a favourite, but I have the ability to enjoy coffee from all origins in the same way.
How do you enjoy drinking your coffee?
I am a very simple guy, so I love to drink my coffee black, without sugar, without milk or anything else,but sometimes with a cookie or good bread.