The Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network wishes to announce that for the year 2017-2018 the Breaking the Silence label of Just Us! certified fair trade and organic coffee will contain roasted coffee beans purchased from ASOBAGRI, a Guatemala cooperative in Barillas, Huehuetenango. This is necessary because Just Us! is unable to purchase organic green beans from the Highlands Committee of Small Farmers (Comite Campesino del Altiplano/CCDA) in 2017.

As many purchasers of Breaking the Silence coffee know, Just Us! has purchased green beans from the CCDA since 2002 to support small organic coffee farmers and the CCDA’s courageous work on land and labour rights. Breaking the Silence coffee buyers may also be aware that the CCDA has suffered much persecution in recent years because of its work. In its April 2017 letter, the CCDA writes: “These struggles have been met by a wave of criminalization of protest over the last several years and we have been subjected to a series of attempts to destabilize the political actions and demands that we have been working on over the last 35 years.”

Very unfortunately, this repression appears to be impacting the fair trade coffee aspect of the CCDA program, which is fundamental to the CCDA’s economic sustainability. In February 2017, Mayacert, a Guatemalan organic certification organization, carried out its annual external inspection of organic coffee producers. The CCDA was denied organic certification for the entire 2016-17 crop, even though the CCDA’s organic coffee producers met the same standards as in the past decade, with the exception of one farmer who should have been individually sanctioned. It seems very likely that the denial of certification is political in nature, due to CCDA involvement with justice issues in the region. We trust that the CCDA will, in the coming months, resolve this issue with Mayacert or find another organic certifying organization.

Just Us!, as a socially committed fair trade organization, has responded with great understanding to this unexpected turn of events, even though the news from the CCDA of the certification denial was of great concern to Just Us!, in particular because it recently finalized an agreement with Sobey’s to supply Breaking the Silence coffee to all of its Maritimes stores. Fortunately ASOBAGRI, the other Guatemalan organization from whom Just Us! buys organic coffee beans, had an additional container of coffee beans available to sell to Just Us! A container is sufficient to supply Sobey’s, as well as individual customers, for the coming year. Just Us! has therefore agreed to continue to use the Breaking the Silence label during this year, while the certification issue hopefully is resolved. In addition, Just Us! has agreed to continue to donate to BTS $.20 per pound of BTS coffee sold. BTS is deeply appreciative of the Just Us! response.

BTS asks all supporters, during this year, to actively encourage the purchase of Breaking the Silence coffee, both at Sobey’s and through personal and group purchases of Breaking the Silence coffee at the wholesale price for re-sale at the retail price. These sales support both the CCDA and the BTS network; build awareness in the Maritimes of the struggles of one of BTS’s longstanding Guatemalan partners; and, as Leocadio Juracn said during his 2014 visit to the Maritimes, are a tangible sign of our ongoing solidarity