Challenges To The Sustainability Of The Coffee Industry

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Challenges To The Sustainability Of The Coffee Industry

Challenges To The Sustainability Of The Coffee Industry – Sustainability  is a pretty common phrase these days – and skeptics of this world will say that businesses use the word “sustainability” to promote a positive image; that their company focuses on social responsibility, environment, etc. rather than profit and growth.

The coffee industry is no different, the presence of certifications such as Organic, Rainforest Alliance, Direct Trade, or Sustainability, on the coffee package makes it possible to charge double the price.

So you’re more profitable – and still look like a better person. So what has made the weight of Sustainability Coffee and what is the real value that it brings?

Challenges To The Sustainability Of The Coffee Industry: Overall, sustainable coffee faces the very shadow of the coffee industry | Photo newyorker

With rapid revenue growth, sustainable coffee brands can demand greater shelf space from retailers because they (and retailers) know that consumers are increasingly looking for Look for more coffee packages labeled “Sustainability” – According to Nielsen, Food Navigator

Three pillars of sustainable coffee

In general, the wording may be different depending on the case of some businesses in the coffee industry.

Still, the core of sustainable coffee is permanently established on three main criteria:  Social Responsibility, Environmental conservation, and Economic value.

Typically, Starbucks the concept of sustainable coffee is supported by three main pillars:  People, the environment  (Planet)  and the economic benefits of the product  (Product).

  • Farmers are at the heart of the first category. All sustainable coffee initiatives focus on increasing economic benefits, health care, and education for children and indigenous workers in the region coffee farming.
  • Environmental concerns are propagated through the practice of organic coffee farming,  without the use of agrochemicals, deforestation, water conservation, wildlife conservation, etc.
  • Finally, to ensure the economic backbone, forms of direct trade or fair trade are applied: firstly, to provide economic value for farmers; The second is a commitment to the quality of coffee to customers.

Sustainable crisis

Based on these reasons, coffee drinkers worldwide love their coffee – and appreciate it even more, when they know that their coffee is grown sustainably. But this is also the premise for concerns about the sustainability crisis that has occurred in the coffee sector.

Challenges To The Sustainability Of The Coffee Industry: Kirimbwa Joseph, a Ugandan farmer who only harvests uniformly ripe coffee cherries – Because users in rich countries like it | Photo National Geographic

This sustainability crisis has two main aspects. Firstly, while coffee prices are constantly rising for consumers, coffee prices are very low for coffee farmers.

These low prices have pushed millions of coffee-growing families into poverty. Second, climate change and other environmental evils such as water stress deeply threaten coffee.

As the poverty crisis and environmental stress intertwine, the future is bleak for coffee farmers in many countries, as well as new consumers around the world discovering the joys of water. this wonderful beverage. According to foodtank – Making Coffee Sustainable

Is there a sustainable coffee supply chain?

It seems that, only in the coffee industry, with its vast supply chain, envy is most visible. Growers are against brokers who simply pick up the phone to earn commissions from exporters.

Brokers feel that only exporters make a profit, while exporters feel disadvantaged against importers who specialize in selling to rich countries.

At the other end of the spectrum, importers are caught in price volatility, feeling squeezed by small margins, so they think the roaster is making more money.

Roasters feel retailers are getting double what they get by working 15 hours a day, six days a week, battling strict certifications when Starbucks just opened one store. downtown.

Challenges To The Sustainability Of The Coffee Industry: Farmers in the village of Mbata in Uganda sell coffee at a collection station | Photo National Geographic

Although low prices have ruined farmers’ livelihoods, coffee roasters and retailers thrive at the other end of the value chain.

And while many of these coffee companies are concerned about the low prices farmers receive in their supply chains, few have taken concrete steps to address the issue seriously.

One of the biggest, Nestle, has argued that solving this price crisis is beyond the ability of any one company.

And to determine this, we need to consider the value of the coffee supply chain in the following example.

Value problem in the coffee supply chain

At the Smithsonian seminar, when a coffee farmer from Central America wondered why  Specialty Coffee companies sell their coffee for 8-10 USD while they only get less than 1 USD for 1 pound of coffee, the answer is explained as follows:

  • Let’s say you pay $1.30 for a bag of Supremo coffee in Colombia, then add 11 cents for shipping, storage, and handling costs, 31 cents for the cost of 18% loss in volume during roasting, plus roasting costs 12 cents a pound, 25 cents for packing and 40 cents for shipping. The total was 2.39 USD. Add 2.15 USD to pay the roaster’s expenses (equipment depreciation, sales, infrastructure…), then fixed 24 cents of profit (5%). When it arrives at a retailer, the cost of a packet of coffee now reaches $4.78.
  • Then depending on the retailer’s size, they have to charge from 8 to 10 USD to have a reasonable profit. On the other hand, if the beans go to a speciality coffee shop, the owner will convert from $4.78 to $25-50 for a pound of coffee as a drink (one espresso costs $1-2 for an average of 25 cups of coffee). On the other hand, the restaurant owners have to cover all costs for space, infrastructure, service…

The coffee; Always unequal

Ultimately, the high costs seem justified, at least in economies and lifestyles in developed countries.

However, there is still an apparent disparity between the affluence in countries like the United States and the poverty in the coffee regions of Central America and East Africa.

And throughout the long history of coffee, they have always been associated with inequality, slavery, servitude, colonization…

This drink, mainly brought in caffeine to help the industrialized world keep afloat wakefulness, is grown in regions that know how to enjoy naps.

Challenges To The Sustainability Of The Coffee Industry: Bekele and Biruk – Ethiopian father and son pruning coffee trees together | Photo: National Geographic

Another aspect that is hard for us to accept in the system of sustainable coffee is that growers have to pay to get certified while they are the weakest tier of an infinite supply chain.

How can you ask people who make an average of a few hundred or a few thousand dollars a year to “empty their pockets” to get certified?

Collectively, sustainable coffee faces the very shadow of the coffee industry. That with each step of development, more economic weight will be placed on the last links of the supply chain. And that without an initiative and industry-wide synergies to move the “trade engine” out of a centuries-old rut, the coffee economy will always operate in an unequal way.

Coffee in balance with the environment

An interesting perspective on coffee sustainability and the environment is that in affluent countries, when townspeople pay more for organic coffee, only a few reach farmers – the livelihood column is almost wobbly.

This forces farmers to cut down more trees to increase the area for coffee production, at which point they say, “We love trees and birds; preserve them!”.

If people in a rich country where obesity is a significant problem want to focus on their trees and birds, I have no complaints.” Price Peterson, a coffee grower in Panama, “However, in a country with an annual income of $1,500, there will be less concern for the environment,” said the Smithsonian.

If you’re hungry, you shoot birds to eat – you don’t conserve them. If you’re homeless in Panama, you cut down trees to build houses – you don’t preserve them.”

Shade & Sun Debate

Coffee is a shrub in Ethiopia, which has gradually replaced native flora and suddenly changed the balance of the ecosystem.

So, “natural” shade-grown coffee at least provides a relatively benign habitat that encourages far more biodiversity than other options.

However, the word “natural” is put in quotation marks because, in the 18th and 19th centuries, coffee was cultivated entirely under the sun to cover the green space removed from the ruined hills.

So the debate in the shade – or in the sun has been around for a long time.

Challenges To The Sustainability Of The Coffee Industry: As the “cradle” of Arabica, Ethiopia’s Sidamo has grown coffee for centuries on barren land with little shade | Photo: National Geographic

By the 20th century, most agronomists had leaned toward the shade method.

In 1901, the United States Department of Agriculture published  Shade in Coffee Culture, in which  OF Cook  pointed out that shade plants help fix nitrogen “They retain the soil and rarely require replanting or other care.

Their shade helps limit weed growth, reducing farming costs and the adverse effects of drought.”

Label for the environment

In September 1996, the 1st Sustainable Coffee Conference was sponsored by the  Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.

For the first time, scholars, conservationists and experts gather for three days with farmers, exporters, importers, roasters and retailers to discuss and debate  Sustainable Coffee firm.

This buzzword has never been clearly defined.

Here  Chris Wile of the  Rainforest Alliance told the audience: “  We could see people drinking more and better quality coffee, just make sure it’s okay. Certified as environmentally friendly.

Birds win, bees win.” The challenge, however, lies in how to commercialize such coffees. Organic retailers disagree with fair trade practitioners. The Rainforest Alliance wants its Eco-OK label, while  Conservation International has a relatively different certification.

How many trees are sustainable enough?

What would create enough shade if they could agree on a Shade-grown coffee seal?

At Selva Negra, when the shade is too thick, there is too little sun for the coffee trees to grow; on the other hand, in La Minita (a standard Costa Rican plantation), shade trees are pruned.

And provide minimal habitat for birds standing with coffee trees, whose beans are the second most expensive in the world.

Challenges To The Sustainability Of The Coffee Industry: Covered by clouds, the Rwenzori Mountains are named in the Ugandan dialect, which means “rainmaker”. The humid temperate climate here is very suitable for growing coffee.

In addition, all the attention is focused on the shade-grown coffee trees of Central and South America, ignoring Africa and Asia, while the experts do not discuss the areas where the shade is. Not necessary because of altitude, cloud cover & climate.

After all, coffee farming more or less always affects the environment, but not only because of the coffee tree, but the environment will be worse, not just because of environmental labels but many good things. will come to coffee farmers or avoid climate change. The dispute between shade and coffee trees seems like a manifesto of powerlessness in an industrialized world.

The race to commercialize sustainability

On the other hand, coffee businesses of all sizes are promoting their sustainability practices. They offer certifications and direct commerce models to pay more, protect the ecosystem and prevent social inequality – Good signs.

However, in some (increasing) cases, these firms have broken the structure of existing certification schemes, believing that their solutions are more practical for some critical problems of the coffee industry.

Challenges To The Sustainability Of The Coffee Industry: Discussing the economic value of coffee, a two-day conference on sustainability was organized by SCA in Guatemala (October 2017).

In agreement with this theme, in 2019,  Hane Motsinger  from SCA mentioned sustainable coffee through its inconsistencies as follows:

Some sustainability initiatives deliver positive results for individuals and communities. However, sustainability is also a valuable marketing tool for many businesses.

With the competitive advantage that sustainable business models offer, many coffee sector businesses prioritise their sustainability projects over cooperation and coordination.

Individualism and independent initiatives

Across the industry, as businesses and organizations are free to pursue their sustainability initiatives, there will be duplication of action due to another link doing the same thing.

But most ominously are sustainability initiatives that do not clearly understand the social, economic, environmental and political situation to determine whether a project will succeed.

This can backfire on some of the most disadvantaged communities in the coffee industry.

Consider this real-life example: A roasting company is building a direct commercial business model for sustainable sourcing practices. The company representative goes to  Guatemala to sample coffee from a Fairtrade cooperative.

After tasting coffee from different batches, the company decided to buy green coffee directly from a farmer in the cooperative.

Cooperative leaders declined the request, saying that this type of contract could create hostility among other farmers in the organization, to the detriment of the only farmer the roaster wanted to pay higher fees.

Because the coffee market is so complex, there is no way a company can become sustainable on its own. Cooperation is necessary, without the help of others you cannot achieve your own goals – Andrea Illy

What will be after sustainable coffee?

Finally, it is important to understand that the coffee economy itself is not responsible for social unrest, environmental pollution, or poverty in any part of the continent; We should not confuse correlation with causation.

The inequalities and frustrations that build up throughout the coffee supply chain have existed since the beginning of the coffee trade and have only gradually worsened.

Going forward, sustainable coffee will face more and more problems, from gender inequality and child labour to global climate change… The achievements will constantly face countless challenges supplementary formula.

It’s also important to know that coffee is relatively benign compared to developed countries’ demand for many other low-priced products in bulk.

Working conditions of workers on banana or cotton plantations, or sweating in gold and diamond mines, coal mines… are much worse. Much of the coffee is grown on small plots of land by farmers who love the trees and berries they care for.

Like their parents, Kirimbwa Joseph and his wife – Musoki Rose, grew coffee in the mountains of Rwenzori, Uganda, for generations – Before the concept of Sustainable coffee.

And finally, many signs have shown that sustainability has become a fad. Everyone talks about sustainability now, but who will reread this article after ten years?

People can talk about “happy coffee”, for example! And Sustainability coffee remains on Wikipedia only as a ” third wave coffee movement “.

Reference source:

  • Article excerpted from Uncommon grounds: The history of coffee and how it transformed our world by Mark Pendergrast, Originally published: 1999; Vietnamese book title: Coffee journey.
  • Sustainability: The Future Is Now
  • www. A Sustainable Coffee Industry? Not Quite
  • An Italian Coffee Giant On The Future Of Sustainability
  • www, Opinion | Making Coffee Sustainable


Helena Coffee Vietnam

Helena Coffee Processing & Export in Vietnam | Helena., JSC, which was established in 2016, is a Vietnamese coffee exporter, manufacturer & supplier. We provide the most prevalent varieties of coffee grown in Vietnam’s renowned producing regions.

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