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2010 RFID Journal Award: RFID Helps Ensure That Special Cup of Joe

Almacafe, the warehousing subsidiary of the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, tracks specialty coffee beans to better compete in the global market.
By Jennifer Zaino
Jun 21, 2010On Apr. 19, 2010, RFID Journal presented the fourth annual RFID Journal Awards for outstanding achievement in radio frequency identification technology to four companies at RFID Journal LIVE! 2010, our eighth annual conference and exhibition. This year's winner for Best Use of RFID in a Product or Service was Almacafé.

More than 500,000 of the small coffee farms, many family-owned, that dot the mountainous regions of Colombia sell their beans to the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to boosting the farmers' standard of living, with programs that minimize production costs and improve coffee quality and sales. It also runs Almacafé, a subsidiary that handles the warehousing, quality control and logistics of the coffee the Federation sells around the world. By providing more value to Federation customers, Almacafé reps say, the coffee growers also benefit.

One Federation initiative: a specialty coffee program to identify and market high-quality coffee beans, which have exceptional characteristics and/or originate from unique regions. Roughly 27 percent of the Colombian coffee exported in 2009 was specialty coffee, and the Federation handled about 43 percent of that. Customers pay up to 200 percent more for specialty coffee, and the premium is transferred in its entirety to the coffee growers themselves.

Specialty clients demand more services for the extra expense, according to Gonzalo Rivera, Almacafé´s general manager. They expect to be able to "follow the trail" back to the regions and conditions that produced a notable sack of beans, for instance, and quick access to order status. To compete more effectively in the global market, Almacafé deployed a radio frequency identification system in 2007 to monitor specialty coffee throughout its internal supply chain—from the farms to the warehouses, and during processing and bagging for export to roasting and trading facilities.
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