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Global coffee consumption is estimated to grow by 2% to 164.64 million bags in coffee year 2018/19. Despite the ongoing demand growth, a global production surplus of 3.11 million bags is expected in coffee year 2018/19
The coffee industry employs over 25 million people across the globe. While most people are consumers of the supercharged drink, it is crucial to understand where coffee comes from. How is coffee farming done?
Different types of coffee farming
Coffee farming can be put into three categories:
- Organic coffee farms
- High production farms
- Small family-owned farms
Organic coffee farms
Organic farms involve non-use of pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals to boost the yields. Yields are extra healthy and expedite ripening of berries in the right way within a few weeks. Coffee is considered organic if;
- It is produced without pesticides or chemicals for the past three years.
- Grown in particular organic coffee crops. No alteration of soli movement or rain in the farm
- Pest control methods used do not involve pesticides, and the soil is fertilized through compost to keep it chemical-free.
High production farms
About 20% of farms not owned by families are operated in this manner. The commercialization of coffee growing in Mexico and Vietnam is an excellent example of high coffee output farms.
Small family-owned farms
80% of the world’s coffee is grown by small-scale farmers. Over 125 million people rely on coffee farming for their livelihoods. 25 million are coffee farmers. They are the reason you get a cup of coffee every morning.
Environmental conditions required for coffee farming
Similar coffee growing conditions are experienced in the largest producer countries, Brazil, and Vietnam. The same conditions are also found in other coffee-growing nations.
Consistent heat is crucial for coffee growing.
A high elevation is fundamental for coffee to thrive. Brazil coffee farms rest on 1,900 feet above sea level, which is an excellent condition for coffee to grow.
Toraja and Sumatra are two very high-quality and highly demanded coffee beans in the world. They are gown on specific islands in Indonesia, which are up to 6,000 feet above sea level.
Altitude affects the coffee quality, and this affects the pricing.
Environmental conditions that affect coffee farming
Temperature change: the rising global temperatures will have severe effects on coffee production in the coming years. A report by I.P.C.C. revealed that South America and Africa will experience a massive reduction in coffee production because of changing conditions.
Rain: optimal rain is perfect for coffee growth and ripening. When rain is scarce, coffee leaves start drying, and this causes fast ripening. The caffeine content in coffee is drastically reduced, and antioxidants are depleted. This makes coffee useless.
Coffee plants produce fruit; the beans are the seeds
Coffee comes from the seed inside the fruit hence the name cherry. There are two seeds in each cherry.
The coffee fruit can be sold and eaten as it is, though it is not a common practice since the caffeine and antioxidants levels are low.
How is coffee dried?
It takes up to six weeks to prepare coffee well. Coffee is dried in the sun to dry the fluid in the cherries and prevent them from spoiling/rotting.
Farmers use aerated and raised beds to store berries while they dry. Constant turning throughout the day allows uniform drying. When it rains, the cherries must be covered.
How long does it take coffee plants to mature?
From the time the coffee plant is planted, it takes three to four years to bear the first fruit. After this period, it will take another one year for cherries to mature
Picking coffee before maturity may result in sour-tasting coffee and inconsistent drying.
Each coffee plant produces an estimated one pound of roasted coffee per year.
Why is coffee farming not lucrative?
Huge wastage at the farm waters down efforts by the farmer. For instance, if you want to yield 10,000 pounds of coffee, you will have to grow over 35,000 pounds of cherries.
Handpicking can reduce wastage. Farms, where machines are used in harvesting, have a wastage of over 66% of picked coffee, which is enormous.
Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world, after oil
Billions of coffee cups are consumed annually, making it one of the widely traded products.
What does fair trade certified mean for coffee farmers?
The coffee food chain involves farmers, middlemen, roasters, exporters, importers, companies, coffee houses, and store shelves. It is a long chain, and every step involves some costs.
Fair Trade Certified means farmers get a sustainable share of the product value for a quality life.
Living conditions in coffee-growing countries like Brazil, Vietnam, and Indonesia are not similar to those of the United States. Some companies take advantage of these economic disparities, thus affecting fair trade in coffee pricing and compensation ranges.
Ideally, Fairtrade ensure farmers get the biggest share from the product, but middlemen exploit them. They inflate the product prices but pay the lowest prices to farmers. If you are concerned about Fair Trade and farmer’s welfare, here are some top brands that are conscious about farmer’s welfare;
- Cafe Altura
- CRU Cafe
- Cycle Town Coffee Roasts
- Ethical Bean Coffee Company
- The Coffee Brewer
- Kaladi Coffee Roasters
- Kicking Horse Coffee
- Kirkland Coffee
- Lidl Organic Coffee
- Mount Hagen
- Puro Fairtrade Coffee
- One Coffee
- Rhino Coffee
- Red Diamond Coffee
- Seattle’s Best Coffee
- Starbucks Coffee
- Steep & Brew
- Sun Alchemy
- Sure House Coffee
- Thanksgiving Coffee Company
- Trader Joe’s Sumatra Blend
- Van Houtte
It will be great paying the right price for the effort put by the farmer. See all Fairtrade products here.
Is the Rainforest Alliance good for coffee farmers?
Rainforest Alliance aims at preserving the earth by providing incentives to distribute crops to roasters and middlemen for a higher amount on the product. They are similar to Fair Trade but concerned with the environment.
Rainforest Alliance received 97% accountability and transparency score on Charity Navigator and National Public Radio.
Rainforest Alliance get farmers an extra 15% per pound of coffee from all the growing countries. Farmers must, however, upgrade their farms to get the certification.
Is it good for coffee farmers?
Merit: is certification is that farmers get better pay from their coffee production.
Demerit: farm upgrades to at high maintenance costs and may need some costly training
Corporations like Starbucks is C.A.F.E. certified and helps in auditing coffee farms and also inspect the living conditions of farmers.
The above facts about different growing methods, climatic requirements, coffee farmers, and the coffee industry are almost similar across the world.
Coffee will overtake tea as the most consumed beverage in the coming years.
Buying ethical coffee impacts coffee farmers directly. Buy from brands that are Fairtrade, C.A.F.E., Rainforest Alliance certified, and support more coffee production.