As the coffee industry has grown globally, it has produced an overproduction. This resulted in lower prices paid to farmers for coffee. Since so much coffee is grown on small farms, thisloss of income has had profound implications for coffee farmers.
Shade grown coffee farm
Coffee grown in a traditional manner, as a shrub beneath an overstory of trees, offers a chance for sale in the specialty coffee market. Such coffee can be certified as Fair Trade, Organic, Shade Grown, or all three, and command higher prices in the market.
The overstory of trees provides other benefits to the farmer. It may provide fruit, firewood, lumber, or medicinal uses. And the services provided by the trees, such as erosion control, soil protection, weed suppression, fertilization (with leguminous, or nitrogen-fixing, trees), and homes for birds, which eat coffee pests, help reduce costs for the farmer.
The tree canopy also provides a home for tropical animals and plants that is somewhat similar to natural forest. With deforestation being an issue in tropical areas, shade grown coffee farms may offer a refuge for biological conservation.
This article summarizes the information in this publication:
Rice, R. 2003. Coffee Production in a Time of Crisis: Social and Environmental Connections. SAIS Review, 23(1): 221-245.
The coffee industry rests upon the production of a global commodity that has grown two-fold in volume and 3.5 times in value since the 1960s, generating in the process billions of annual export dollars. This article discusses coffee's history as a global commodity, and its environmental and social implications. Occupying some 10 million hectares globally, millions of small producers and their families depend upon coffee as their major source of income. Their livelihood is threatened today by a price crisis brought on by overproduction. But, innovative market initiatives linked to social equity and ecological or conservation concerns have the potential to lift producers out of the devastation caused by low prices. Government and private sector actors also have a role to play in solving the crisis.
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