How Long Does It Take To Transition To Organic Coffee Production?

Vietnamese Coffee Exporter
organic coffee production

How Long Does It Take To Transition To Organic Coffee Production?: The decision to start producing coffee organically is not usually taken lightly or without taking stock of the cost-benefit it can bring to a farm. Abandoning traditional production, that is, production that uses agrochemicals to ensure its yield, can drastically affect profitability if it is not carried out through a sustainable strategy.

Using the environment to your advantage, reusing resources and optimizing the production of coffee trees can mean that this transition takes less time and the results are presented before the coffee grower incurs debt.To learn more about strategies and how long the process of transitioning to organic production takes, I spoke with three experts. Continue reading to better understand the implications of this decision.

Organic coffee production in the region

When talking about organic coffee we cannot omit the relevance in this field of some origins from Latin America. For example, Peru is positioned as the second largest producer of organic coffee in the world, with around 120,000 hectares that represent 29% of national production.

On the other hand, 31% of the organic coffee imported by the European Union in 2018 was of Honduran origin. In Mexico, around 8% of coffee farmers grow organic coffee. Carlos Araya is in charge of Finca Lecanto, a certified organic business in Costa Rica that is dedicated to the production of different crops, with coffee being its star product. Finca Lecanto has been free of agrochemicals for twelve years and the bioinputs it uses are from its own production.

He says that in the past, in Costa Rica, large volume production was carried out without the use of agrochemicals . Although many coffee growers currently use them to ensure yield, Carlos maintains that “it is not sustainable to maintain production with high prices for traditional inputs.”

A response to various contexts

organic coffee production
Organic coffee beans

Beto Osorio is a small-scale Honduran coffee farmer who is dedicated to organic production. Initially, he employed traditional practices but, after a transition that took three years, he can now guarantee that his coffee production is free of agrochemicals. He states that growing organic coffee depends on several factors for its success; However, if conditions are favorable and coffee plantation management is efficient , it is more likely that these types of practices will be profitable.

Delmi Villeda is part of the Capucas Cooperative in Honduras and works as a taster and barista. In Capucas they have their own organic fertilizer plant, based on by-products from coffee and other crops, which are provided to producers. Delmi states that “it is easier to produce coffee in the traditional way and with short-term results.” Despite this, he believes that it is necessary to think about the long term and the impact of agrochemicals on health and the environment.

Having organic production seals allows them to obtain a better price when exporting coffee. “That has given us a good image as a cooperative, as a community and as a country.”

Where does the transition begin?

For Carlos, the transition to organic production will be defined based on the circumstances of each producer; However, there are certain general steps. At first, if commercial chemicals are stopped, the land will not be in a position to provide the same productivity. This transition then implies a process of adaptation and rest of the land so that the soils recover and vegetation develops. Adding organic matter to soils can contribute to this process.

It is important to carry out this transition thinking about the long term. The soils must be prepared to nourish the coffee plants for the next ten or fifteen years.  For Beto, the transition begins by discarding agrochemicals from the mind and starting to generate bioinputs on the farm. Delmi says that when a producer decides to turn to organic production, the cooperative carries out extension work through a technical certification team, made up of children of producers. They provide support and access to information through visits to the farms to define an action plan based on a regulation that allows production to be certified as organic.

Projections and adaptive process

In Carlos’s case, he decided to remove all the coffee plants that were in production until now and replaced them with a new variety. Despite this, he believes that, in certain cases, it is not advisable to perform this replacement due to the economic cost involved.  In any case, if it is a viable option, it is a good opportunity to start producing a variety with better cup quality, lower vulnerability or higher yield.

Delmi explains that organic coffee is produced with a greater amount of shade . Consequently, its handling must be controlled and manual collection can generate high labor costs. “Production must guarantee sustainability and conservation of natural resources, which is why it is a little more expensive.” She considers that some procedures are invariable but others must be adapted to the dimensions of the farm in question.

For his part, Beto affirms that producing coffee organically can be very expensive and at the same time can cause production to decrease; However, he is committed to a healthy product that, having that added value, can be sold at a higher price to cover costs.

How long does this transition entail?

According to Carlos, the more time that passes since agrochemicals are abandoned, the better the quality of the soil and organic production. After six months, grasses begin to appear but it depends on the soil conditions and the climatic environment. Every year, there is a diversity of insects that help regulate the ecosystem through pollination and elimination of some pests.

In Costa Rica, for production to be organic, according to national legislation, certain parameters must be met, explains Carlos. The State Phytosanitary Service is in charge of carrying out soil analyzes to prove that there is no use of agrochemicals.

organic coffee production
Organic coffee production

Then, there are certification companies that confirm what the state has accredited and, after two or three years of starting the transition process, they finally certify that the production is organic through a new soil analysis.

Carlos says that when carrying out soil analysis, the Phytosanitary Service of the State of Costa Rica found traces of agrochemicals that were used 25 years ago for the production of cane, a crop that was developed a few decades ago in what is now Finca Lecanto. This shows that although soils can recover, the trace of agrochemicals can persist for decades .

Recovery phases

Based on her experience, Delmi believes that the recovery time of the soil will depend on how the producer has been working the farm. The greater the damage, the more time must be invested and it can be years, rather than months.

According to her, the stages within the transition are:

  • Soil analysis
  • Projection of the work to be done
  • Weed removal
  • Resource reuse
  • Testing
  • New soil analysis to ensure it is free of agrochemicals

Can dual production be developed to guarantee income?

Carlos believes that hybrid production can be developed, between traditional and organic, if the idea is to eventually abandon agrochemicals and opt for organic coffee. He understands that this process is difficult to face economically and that not all producers can afford a radical change immediately.

“I think a lot of people are going to have to do that to make a transition, I think it’s part of the process.” stands out.

Beto considers that in the case of dual production, the farm will be considered traditional production in practice because the organic part does not represent the whole. At the same time, the costs of the part destined for organic production must be assumed, without being able to acquire a certification that provides added value to the commercialization of coffee.

Likewise, Delmi maintains that the demand for organic coffee is growing and many coffee farmers are aware of this. Consequently, some begin to venture into this type of production , investing in a part of the farm. “For them, conventional production is easier but they see the advantages of organic production.”

Beyond the added value, she highlights the importance of more producers leaning towards organic production. By reducing or eliminating the use of agrochemicals, the soil and the health of coffee growers are taken care of.

Increasing demand for organic coffee production

According to estimates by the consulting firm Allied Market Research, the organic coffee market reached US $6.8 billion in 2018 and is projected to reach US $12.6 billion by 2026. The trend of consuming organic products is not only a practice promoted by coffee growers, but many consumers are becoming aware of the link that exists between the products they consume and their health.

This growth in demand helps create a market where farmers can turn their production organically and continue investing in sustainable practices, mitigating the risk of their coffee not selling. The quality of the coffee and its attributes in the cup are determining factors for its marketing. In that context, an organic certification seal can make a person lean towards one coffee over another.

If organic practices can be combined with the added value of quality, we will be in the presence of a highly competitive coffee with the capacity to generate a positive impact on the industry.

The most reputable organic coffee producer in the world – Helena Coffee

Nestled within Vietnam’s lush Central Highlands, Helena Coffee Vietnam is celebrated for its exceptional coffee beans, recognized as premium and specialty-grade. Committed to sustainability and ethical practices, the company establishes meaningful partnerships with local coffee growers, prioritizing Arabica and Robusta beans while ensuring fair compensation and environmentally conscious practices.

Helena Coffee Vietnam’s dedication to coffee excellence goes beyond acquiring superior beans; it extends to the meticulous art of roasting. Each batch is treated as a canvas, expertly roasted to reveal the unique flavors and aromatic richness inherent in every bean. The company offers a diverse range of coffee selections, catering to a broad clientele, including wholesale opportunities for single-origin gems, expertly crafted blends, indulgent flavored coffees, as well as both roasted and green beans.

When it comes to sourcing green coffee beans, Helena Coffee Vietnam caters to both the discerning home coffee enthusiast and the coffee enterprise seeking a reliable supplier of exceptional green beans. Explore a journey of flavor and finesse with Helena Coffee Vietnam, where quality isn’t just promised but passionately delivered.

Navigating the complexities of sourcing involves considering various factors, such as consumer demand, inventory management, ethical practices, and harvest cycles. To embark on this journey, begin by understanding your customers’ preferences, as ensuring a market for your chosen coffees is crucial for implementing sustainable practices in your green coffee sourcing strategy.

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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.