Western Honduras is home to some of the most diverse terrain in Central America, including the department of Ocotepeque which is quickly developing a reputation as one of the country’s finest coffee producing areas. Beneficio San Marcos is located in Ocotepeque’s Sensenti valley, and in just a few years has become a nexus of specialty coffee business in the area.
Honduras was part of the coffee certification vanguard and fully embraced the cooperative mentality early on. Like most coffee-producing departments in Honduras, the majority of Ocotepeque’s smallholder farmers are organized into coops to benefit from shared access to resources, infrastructure, certifications and consuming markets. Beneficio San Marcos (BSM) formed in 2013 not simply to create another cooperative, but to provide much-needed services to the existing coops already operating in Ocotepeque.
As well as supporting more than 200 farmers directly, BSM works with nearly 1,100 producers through coops like COCAEROL, COCAMOL, ECADOME, FLOR DEL PINO, COCAJUNCAL, COCASANCOL, COPRAL and MARQUENSE. Technical assistance, education, financial support and quality control are among the many services BSM offers to its clients. Most farmers in Ocotepeque are able to depulp and wash their coffees at their farms, but climate and terrain in the high-altitude farming areas can make drying coffee difficult. Parchment drying using machines, patios and raised beds is another service offered by Beneficio San Marcos that, in conjunction with strict quality control, has helped Ocotepeque farmers dramatically improve the value of their coffees.
Beneficio San Marcos’ dry milling, export and marketing services may be the most valuable of all. Prior to BSM, most coops in Ocotepeque would deliver their parchment (sometimes still wet from washing) to large exporters in Santa Rosa de Copan, some three hours drive on a good day. Beneficio San Marcos gives farmers the option to deliver to a local company that not only prepares their parchment with care but also travels often to consuming countries to promote their coffees in new markets.