A New Sustainability Frontier in Specialty Coffee
Write an article about how improving sustainability in the coffee industry is a pressing concern. Considered one of the most important agricultural staples, coffee faces significant environmental concerns that threaten its future viability. One major solution to this problem is sustainable farming practices. This article will explore what these are and where they are being applied today.
Sustainability in Coffee: A Brief Introduction
The introduction of this article should begin with a brief history of coffee as a commodity throughout the world. The current problems that have been introduced into both the supply and demand side of the industry must be discussed as well as its effects on the planet.
As a result, it is crucial to introduce sustainable farming practices with its history in the coffee industry. This section should also discuss how effective these practices are at restoring balance to the planet.
The History of Coffee
Coffee is one of the most widely traded commodities worldwide and as such, has an extensive history as a product grown and sold across countries ever since its introduction into Europe during the 1600’s.
Coffee plants are grown across the tropics, primarily in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. “Brazil is now the world’s largest coffee producer, surpassing Vietnam last year.
The United States imports about 15% of its annual coffee consumption”. There are many issues that arise regarding the growing and selling of this product that must be discussed.
The Problems with Coffee Today
Coffee is threatened by a number of environmental issues such as “climate change, deforestation, soil erosion, loss of habitat and biodiversity” (Anderson).
One major issue to discuss is deforestation and its effects. Deforestation across Latin America has affected the areas surrounding coffee farms. “Between 2001 and 2014, more than 1.7 million acres of forest were lost in the region, largely to create land for agriculture- including coffee farms” (Anderson). This is due to a number of problems with the current conditions surrounding the industry.
A New Sustainability Frontier
The introduction should also mention how effective sustainable farming practices are at restoring balance to the planet. This practice has proven to be effective in restoring areas that have been previously exploited by the coffee industry back into their natural state. One of these practices is shade-grown coffee farms.
“These methods manage both sun and rainforest conditions through a diverse mixture of trees, shrubs, vines, herbs, and soil life to support biodiversity while protecting the integrity of fresh water sources” (Anderson).
This is crucial to the future of both coffee production and our planet. Sustainable farming practices are an enormous part of this industry on a global scale that needs dedicated attention in the coming years.
The History of Shade-Grown Coffee Farms
Shade-grown coffee farms are not a new concept. In fact, they have been around for decades now across the world. However, their presence in today’s market is quite low when compared to other forms of coffee production.
“Popularized by US coffee companies like Starbucks and Peet’s during the 1990s, most specialty coffees were grown under traditional ‘sun coffee’ methods, which means clearing non-native trees and replacing them with a single species of coffee plant monoculture” (“A New Sustainability Frontier”). The arrival of specialty coffee in the late 80’s brought about a new wave of sustainable farming practices that have been implemented to this day.
Sustainable Farming Practices Today
There are many practices that are used in the modern day to ensure that coffee is produced safely on a large scale. One of these is, “reducing or eliminating chemical pesticides, herbicides and fungicides” (“A New Sustainability Frontier”). This practice has been on the rise since its first introduction into coffee production. Many times fair-trade farmers have a hard time marketing their coffee as being grown without the use of chemicals due to unfair market forces.
“In Latin America, even organic certified coffee is allowed levels of chemical residue that would be unacceptable in other markets” (“A New Sustainability Frontier”). In an attempt to solve this issue, many companies have started labeling their products as having been produced without the aid of harmful chemicals.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also provides a list of brands that were tested and did not contain adverse chemical residue in their products (“The Buzz About).
A New Standard for Specialty Coffee
Many coffee growers have recently begun to shift towards “organic, shade-grown and bird friendly” (“A New Sustainability Frontier”) methods of production.
These new practices are crucial to the continuation of coffee, but it is important for them to be enforced across all farms in order to make a large enough impact on the market as a whole. This was first seen during the Boston Local Coffee Festival where many vendors were selling “specialty coffees that met the standards of Bird Friendly Certification” (“The Buzz About”).
This is an enormous step in the right direction for coffee producers all across the world. “As consumers increasingly demand responsibly produced coffee, they’re also demanding transparency about how it was sourced and produced” (“A New Sustainability Frontier”).
The best way to ensure this is by enforcing certification labels on all coffee farms. The only way to enforce this across the world is through help from large companies, such as Starbucks, who have begun to take steps towards bettering their communities globally.
One of the first steps that Starbucks has taken in order to provide ethical coffee was partnering with Conservation International (CI) back in 2008 (“A New Sustainability Frontier”). This has brought about a movement of bettering the communities that Starbucks sources from and providing more sustainable production.
“In fact, we’ve committed $10 million to help farmers in coffee-producing countries adapt their farming practices for a changing climate” (“A New Sustainability Frontier”) is what you can find on their website regarding this particular topic. Starbucks is taking huge steps in order to ensure that their sources are being used responsibly and only providing the best quality product possible.
As you can see, there has been a large shift in global coffee production practices since specialty coffee started becoming popularized in the last 20 years.
As our society becomes more conscious of where products come from, the more work that has to be done. There are still many farms around the world that use harmful chemicals in order to produce coffee faster and cheaper.
This is hurting the communities that depend on coffee for their livelihoods. As consumers of specialty coffee become more aware of where their products come from, they can use this information to purchase ethically sourced products.
The more demand there is for specialty coffee, the more motivation farms will have to change their practices in order to provide better quality coffee for their communities.
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