Coffee Overproduction: An Opportunity for Biodiversity Conservation

January 1, 2003 by Gregory Gough

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.

coffee farms that looks like a forest

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 scientific paper:

Rice, R. 2003. Coffee Production in a Time of Crisis: Social and Environmental Connections. SAIS Review, 23(1): 221-245.

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