One Big Mess

Even though ASNIKOM had agreed to only use our service to work with buyers from abroad they did not contact us when an Indonesian representative (Ontosoroh Coffee) for a European import firm, This Side Up Coffee, approached them to buy their so called Fine Robusta in huge quantities (September 2018).

In August 2019 we miraculously found out and uncovered a mess – a prime example of neo-colonialism and exploitation of farmers.

Ontosoroh was asked by This Side Up Coffee for specialty coffees to purchase “Fine Robusta” from ASNIKOM.

This Side Up Coffee that promotes transparency and direct trade towards its customers were tricked due to their lack of interest in the farmers and so were the farmers due to their lack of knowledge. Both sides acted incredibly gullible.

According to the Two-Kings-Principle we don’t negotiate the price the farmers give because we know they are giving us their best which is specialty grade one. For Fine Robusta they ask Rp 85.000/kg (5,31€).

Now Ontosoroh Coffee, on behalf of This Side Up Coffee, offered only Rp. 57.500/kg (3,56€). For that low price (on the year of 2018) ASNIKOM only agreed to sell him grade 2 which is also called premium.

ASNIKOM itself only produces grade one and therefore and because of the huge quantity collected the beans from non-members. For this reason they requested that Ontosoroh Coffee would not mention ASNIKOM as producers.

Ontosoroh Coffee ordered 6.000kg Robusta (pulped natural) and 3.000kg Robusta (natural) in September 2018.

It was already end of harvesting time in Flores and ASNIKOM at that time had only the capacity of producing 3.000kg pulped natural and 6.000kg natural (the other way around than requested). ASNIKOM helped buying grade 2 beans from non-members and sorting the beans.

But because of time running out and Ontosoroh Coffee wanting to ship the coffee, he transported all the beans to Salatiga, East Java, to have them sorted there under his surveillance and by his staff.

By that time ASNIKOM had only sorted 3.000kg pulped natural and 1.020kg natural. The remaining 4.980kg were sorted – more or less – in Salatiga. All the beans were not yet packed in bags and thrown together again when done.

When the beans arrived in Europe in March 2018, shortly afterwards This Side Up Coffee had to deal with disappointed customers (coffee roasters). The quality of the beans was not matching the samples they had received beforehand. They were not grade one, which they had expected.

Here we need to mention that This Side Up Coffee sold the kilo for 6,05€. Any roaster who persues a just treatment of the farmers can not expect to get grade one quality for such a low price. It was quite painful when we found out that a well-known rostery that emphasizes their fair way of trade actually bought those under-priced beans.

So Ontosoroh Coffee was informed by This Side Up Coffee and he in turn informed ASNIKOM and blamed them even though it was his staff that did most of the sorting and threw all beans together.

Ontosoroh Coffee also demanded a price reduction of Rp. 10.000/kg (62,5 cent). ASNIKOMs hands were bound because Ontosoroh Coffee had kept 55% of the payment and had only paid 45% of the whole amount until that point despite having received the total amount before the shipping (as we were told).

After we heard about ASNIKOM having a deal with This Side Up Coffee we contacted Pak Lodo, head of the cooperative.

He did not hide anything and even informed us about the missing payments. Ontosoroh Coffee had transfered 45% at the end of April 2019 after the coffees had arrived in Europe. He then had promised to pay the remaining 55% later in June 2019. But surely nothing happened. ASNIKOM couldn’t get hold of Ontosoroh Coffee and they were told that This Side Up Coffee had not yet paid the 55%.

As stated before miraculously we got in touch with the This Side Up Coffee.

We tried to clarify things. This Side Up Coffee were shocked to find out that ASNIKOM had not received the full payment.

So the Ontosoroh Coffee had lied to them and also to ASNIKOM.

And another issue was brought to light: Ontosoroh Coffee had received 100 bags pulped natural (each bag contains 60kg) 6.000kg and 38 bags natural means 2.280kg. But as we mentioned above it was the other around.

So the Ontosoroh Coffee betrayed the This Side Up Coffee once more by putting wrong labels on the bags as he just wanted to meet the trader’ request. That is another reason why some roasters were not happy with the beans they got. Farmers of ASNIKOM can actually just by smelling and seeing the greens tell how they were processed.

Our Commitment

ASNIKOM has made several bad experiences with buyers and export firms. And everytime they suffer.

They asked us for help.

Now ASNIKOM understood that this problem might not have happened if they had included us from the beginning. We don’t judge them for doing so because it’s a learning process they are in.

According to the Two-Kings-Principle we want them “to continuously grow in their identity, from dependence to self-dependence, gaining a real understanding of the true value of their work and product, having the power to freely decide to whom to sell for how much.” Those farmers have been kept in the dark and treated as naïve and even stupid for decades.

The truth is they are good-hearted people who just don’t expect others to be capable of such selfish acts. It is hard for them to discern who is truthful and honest and interested in them as people and who is not.

If now anyone outside of Indonesia is interested in buying grade one coffee beans from ASNIKOM, they have to contact us. We trust that the farmers if approached by some kind of export firm or trader will ask us for help.

Farmers, beans and prices are going to be listed on the official Website from ASNIKOM, made and managed by us, since we were ordered by them to do so (coming up).

The Good Fight

This Side Up Coffee seems not willing to give up on Ontosoroh Coffee and is already talking to Ontosoroh Coffee about a second import.

That again leaves us speechless. We will watch very carefully if in any way ASNIKOM is mentioned on their website as producer and good reference for the grade one coffee they are offering.

If so, we will fiercely interfere because they never received any beans “grown, processed and sorted” by ASNIKOM.

It’s still a long way to go for colonism – or call it neo-colonism – to be extinguished. 500 years of mindset aren’t changed in a few seconds or with a mouthful of kind words. It takes much more.

Family Instead Partner

We are standing next to ASNIKOM demanding the indonesian representative to pay the rest of the money. Sadly This Side Up Coffee made a statement that if the  company of the indonesian representative goes to bankrupcy, then the money will be gone and ASNIKOM will not be able to get the money.

This means This Side Up Coffee might leave them alone with the mess since they made the statement that they already paid 100% towards their representative in Indonesia, which we don’t know the truth about this (we have not seen any proof concerning this).

Here we reminded This Side Up Coffee about their statement of putting the farmers first but it seems that ASNIKOM are just working labourer for their sake. So they are just interested in the end product which is green beans.

We hope that all these nice words about “caring for the best of the farmers” are not a missused marketing language. This Side Up Coffee has to find other solution of getting the money for ASNIKOM if Ontosoroh Coffee in Indonesian really goes to bankcrupcy.

Last Update: 20 January 2020

The the 4th of September the indonesian representative did call ASNIKOM (thanks also to This Side Up Coffee who put pressure on him) and mentioned that he was going to pay the rest of the money in 2 installments on the following friday and the week after that. Yes, he mentioned that he just received the money from This Side Up Coffee.

He really transfered 16% of the money from the 55% which he still owed ASNIKOM.

We are still waiting to see when he will transfer the 84% rest of the money since he didn’t keep his promise and only told ASNIKOM today that he is still trying to get the rest of money. 

We already informed This Side Up Coffee to take the name of ASNIKOM off their website since we all don’t know whether they really got the beans from ASNIKOM since their indonesian representativ made a lot of mistakes and sent the coffees from East Java. It was not collected from ASNIKOMs members and also their indonesian representativ has not paid the rest of the money.

Sadly This Side Up Coffee didn’t react to this. They haven’t put any updates concerning this big mess but they updated good looking photos from their 2 days trip visiting ASNIKOM (which is their “one and only direct visit”) some weeks ago (writting in the end of September 2019).

Ever since there were no news at all from ASNIKOM and again without we knew before hand until the beginning of January 2020 again ASNIKOM aggred to sent their Robusta grade 1 to Ontosoroh – and this even in slightly bigger volume which is 9.600kg. The price was agreed by Rp. 70.000/kg (Farmgate price) but we are wondering here in Döbeln and Jakarta that ASNIKOM again “played” by the rule of Ontosoroh, that there were no payment at all (even from the 84% rest of the money from last purchase). The whole sum is definitely high for ASNIKOM which is 44.800€ (exchange rate of Rp. 15.000).

We were told that ASNIKOM felt like there was no other option because they were told through Ontosoroh on the behalf of This Side Up Coffee in 2019 that there would be 9.000kg order for fine Robusta grade 1 in 2019 and because of the mess up facts as stated above, This Side Up Coffee seemed need more times to gather trusts from potential international buyers. ASNIKOM already finished producing these 9.000kg and because of the messed up story they must wait and wait and wait. Yes, ASNIKOM want to let go their 9.000kg fine Robusta as it was ordered and they wanted to get the 84% debts from Ontosoroh as well and therefore though they only want to use our service but they still leave a back door open toward Ontosoroh.

This newly purchased (not yet paid) 9.600kg fine Robusta traveled to Yogyakarta as all bags fill be repackaged and there we find a huge possibility that Ontosoroh might do “something tricky” towards this entrusted goods, like he already did in the past toward his partner: This Side Coffee. There is no control from ASNIKOM to check the goods after these bags repackaged – so all of us will not know whether the bags declared later on by Ontosoroh to be fine Robusta from ASNIKOM will be genuine beans from ASNIKOM.

ASNIKOM was told that 60% value from the 9.600kg will be paid as soon these bags are on their way leaving Jogjakarta. We asked ASNIKOM concerning the 84% of the outstanding debts and there are still no information from Ontosoroh about when he will pay this.

We got information on the 31th of January 2020 that the 60% from the new ordered coffees was paid but still there was no payment from the 84% of the outstanding debts. ASNIKOM wished to get this debt to be paid together with the 40% of the new order at least by the end of March 2020.

For ASNIKOM’s sake we traveled on our own expenses to visit Coffee Circle in Berlin as they were the big buyer from This Side Up Coffee in the messed up story before and therefore they chosed not to buy from ASNIKOM anymore though they only got the grade 2 (or even worse than that – thanks to Ontosoroh). I offered Coffee Circle our “Single Farmer Origin” within the Two Kings Philosophy but the price is whats really matter for them and such liberation right granted by us towards small scale farmers are just to much in their point of view.

Yes, at the end of the story whats really matter is the green bean price and also the “story telling selling points”, that they missed since they trusted wrong partner such like This Side Up Coffee. So instead correcting themselves and get the partner right, they chose to just end that tryout with ASNIKOM. We felt really sorry for that decision.

But we believe that there are still other good roasters out there aside of us and put efforts to do ethically sourced coffee right – here we are delighted to get to know James Harper through his podcast chanel: FILTER STORIES. Most of small scale farmers suffer just like ASNIKOM all around the world and James highlighted some acceptions as study cases and this is encouraging. Together we can make things better!

Furthermore you can read down below about our journey started from the beginning of 2015 on how we have nurtured direct trading with ASNIKOM.

A ``Very Special`` Relationship

Back to January 2015 in search for coffee of “Single Farmer Origin” Nicolas met Lodovikus Vadirman, co-founder and head of ASNIKOM, a small cooperative in Flores, East-Manggarai, with now 447 active members.

He was given their best samples and introduced to their understanding of dignity. Those simple farmers are able to produce highest quality using very ordinary tools and methods. Their coffees have won several national „specialty“ competitions (Coffee Journey I).

Since the beginning of 2015 we are committed to present the best goods of ASNIKOM.

At first we bought Arabica SL-795 (full washed) and also Fine Robusta  (pulped natural) and presented it in our small coffee shop in Döbeln.

  • Arabica SL-795 grade 1 (full washed) 970kg Farmgate Price: 4€/kg
  • Fine Robusta grade 1 (pulped natural) 50kg Farmgate Price: 3,35€/kg

Nicolas visited the farmers again in October 2015 and added Yellow Caturra to our range of coffees (coming up: Coffee Journey II). We bought also Fine Robusta as we were really pleased with the 50kg we had before.

Meanwhile we had developed and defined the Two-Kings-Principle.

  • Yellow Caturra grade 1 (full washed) 1020kg Farmgate price: 6€/kg
  • Fine Robusta grade 1 (pulped natural )540kg Farmgate Price: 3,75€/kg

Based on this philosophy Nicolas visited ASNIKOM again in April 2016 and took Ralf Knauthe, a really good friend, regular customer and also coffee lover with him to personally meet the ones who grow and process the good he enjoys every day (coming up: Coffee Journey III).

There they were told about the existence of Red Caturra and also Typica called Juria. It is the second oldest Arabica variety of the whole island. These coffee trees are over 30 and even up to 50 years old and are only found on some small plantations. Because of a very little and rare harvest (only every 3-5 years) most coffee farmers decided to chop down the old trees to make room for SL-795.

A Japanese who resided in Bali discovered this variety in Colol and with the help of local coffee traders of influence started promoting this coffee in Bali and also Japan. The roasted beans were sold for around 62€/kg within the island or sometimes even 75€/kg within Indonesia and in Japan for as much as 83€/kg though they were not processed well to be declared “grade 1” which is specialty.

We decided to also buy this varieties as well from ASNIKOM and received it in April 2017 – together with Red Caturra.

  • Typica Juria grade 1 (full washed) 595kg Farmgate price: 10,31€/kg
  • Red Caturra grade 1 (pulped natural) 130kg Farmgate Price: 6,5€/kg

In May 2017 Nicolas visited ASNIKOM and brought another two regular customers with him. One of them wanted to purchase traditionally processed coconut oil for his small soap factory. The other customer is a professional photographer was hired by Nicolas to make a short film about ASNIKOM (coming up: Coffee Journey IV).

Again in September 2017 we got our Arabica SL-795 with the 1st purchase of coconut oil for our german friend.

  • Arabica SL-795 grade 1 (full washed) 300kg Farmgate price: 5,8€/kg

Again in January 2018 Nicolas travelled to Flores, this time together with his mother and sister. The two women were introduced to ASNIKOM to later be of help in terms of better communication since they are living in Jakarta (more to read: Coffee Journey V).

During their stay they were told about a lot of unjust things happening to ASNIKOM.

The cooperative had diligently tried to persuade more small scale farmers to become active members and by that to commit to producing best quality to raise the bar for traders who readily beat down prices. Sadly, all costly investments in globally approved certifications like rainforest, bio organic and especially “fair trade” turned out to be a waste of money. Those organisations were rather ignoring the exploitation through a big Indonesian export firm or even worse backing such companies that lied to and betrayed ASNIKOM. The farmers and the organisation lost a lot of profit that was promised if they would get those certifications. Very much discouraged they decided to only use our services to communicate with buyers from abroad.

Being only two people with a very small business, we tried our best:

We attended Amsterdam Coffee Festival in 2018 and the Transparent Trade Coffee Meeting in Hamburg to get into the community of coffee roasters. We even reached out to roasters in various cities all over Germany and presented ASNIKOM and the Two-Kings-Principle. But despite all the talk about transparency and justice for coffee farmers, in the end no-one seems willing to pay the actual cost.

So we decided to send Eric Mwirigi Kithao, a dedicated young Kenian to Flores to spend six months with ASNIKOM. He lived with the farmers, worked with them and became their son. On our behalf he also visited and documented all active ASNIKOM members. Altogether it was a really meaningful step in nourishing our friendship with ASNIKOM (coming up: Coffee Journey VI).

Eric returned to Kenya to eventually start to apply all the gained knowledge together with a handful of small scale farmers in Kenya. When we visited the farmers in December 2018 we were astonished by how much love everyone had for Eric and how intensely he was missed.

We went back again to visit ASNIKOM at the end of 2018 and arranged the order to get Cascara SL-795 and also SL-795 in natural process (coming up: Coffee Journey VII).

  • Arabica SL-795 grade 1 (full washed) 120kg Farmgate price: 6,8€/kg
  • Yellow Caturra grade 1 (full washed) 120kg Farmgate price: 7,1€/kg
  • Fine Robusta grade 1 (pulped natural) 60kg Farmgate price: 4,8€/kg
  • Cascara Arabica SL-795 45kg Farmgate price: 2,8€/kg

Last not least at the beginning of July 2019 a young Indonesian student, Gerard Alexander Lilipaly, who is now (starting from September 2019) studying in TU-Dresden, went to visit ASNIKOM on our behalf so he can also be representative of them in our KAFFEEkostBAR in Dresden (coming up: Coffee Journey VIII).

Our 6th imported coffees from ASNIKOM arrived around at mid November 2019 in Döbeln.

  • Arabica SL-795 grade 1 (full washed) 120kg Farmgate price: 7,1€/kg
  • Arabica SL-795 grade 1 (natural) 30kg Farmgate price: 8,4€/kg
  • Yellow Caturra grade 1 (full washed) 120kg Farmgate price: 7,1€/kg
  • Fine Robusta grade 1 (pulped natural) 60kg Farmgate price: 5,3€/kg
  • Fine Robusta grade 1 (natural) 60kg Farmgate price: 5€/kg
  • Red Caturra grade 1 (full washed) 60kg Farmgate price: 7,1€/kg

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