Sustainable Coffee Production Finds a Growing Number of Fans in Germany

September 27, 2007

Within the past twelve months the area given over to sustainable coffee production has increased by 90 percent.

On September 28, 2007, Germany is celebrating Coffee Day. The Rainforest Alliance -- an international non-governmental environmental conservation organization with headquarters in the United States and Costa Rica -- is using this day to report on current developments in the segment for sustainably produced coffee:

To date 160,000 hectares of coffee-growing area have been certified for sustainable farming by the Rainforest Alliance and its non-governmental partners in the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN). Some 10,000 coffee farms and small agricultural cooperatives today sell raw coffees that have been cultivated in line with the standards of the SAN and the Rainforest Alliance. They all bear the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal -- easily recognizable from the green frog.

Impressive Figures

In the past twelve months the area of land certified by Rainforest Alliance and SAN has risen by approximately 90 percent, from some 85,000 hectares to 160,000 hectares (as of: August 31, 2007). Motivating farm operators and the representatives of cooperatives of small farms to shift to sustainable production also has a clear impact on global coffee sales. Thus, for instance, the sale of Rainforest Alliance Certified raw coffee has doubled each year since 2003 (2003: seven million pounds; 2006: some 55 million pounds). Based on current projections sales of Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee are likely to reach 88 million pounds for 2007.

The Rainforest Alliance forecasts that within the next five years 5 percent of the beans produced worldwide will come from farms certified to the SAN standards. Within the next seven years the organization aims to increase this figure to as much as 10 percent.

Impressive Brands

Never before in the organization's twenty-year history have so many farms and such a large area borne the seal with the green rainforest frog that symbolizes sustainable production. Today coffee which originates from Rainforest Alliance-certified farms is no longer a rarity in Germany and Austria. Kraft Foods offers "Jacobs Milea" and the brand "Jacobs Nachhaltige Entwicklung," Tchibo seasonal and limited edition specialties such as the Privat-Kaffee "Mexiko Muxbal," as well as the "Schattenwaldkaffee." ARKO has launched an "Andenkaffee" on the market, of which the used beans come likewise from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms.

Growing Coffee

Of late all the "McCafé" outlets in Germany also offer espresso specialties from sustainable production only. The coffee used is supplied by Kraft Foods. Those traveling from Cologne to Paris on board the famed premium train "Thalys" drink coffee from sustainable production bearing the seal with the green frog.

"Those wanting to treat themselves or their guests and still arouse the right aftertaste in the country of production should move over to a coffee whose beans come from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. Every consumer can help promote sustainable change in agriculture by changing their purchase and consumption behavior," says Chris Wille, a cofounder of Rainforest Alliance and the head of its agriculture division.

Annemieke Wijn, a member of the executive board of Rainforest Alliance and a resident of the coffee city Bremen, stresses that Rainforest Alliance is achieving an ever greater presence -- not only through an increase in product offerings from brand-name coffee manufacturers, but also in the development work itself: "At present we are also working together with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) in Eschborn on the basis of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), namely in the areas of coffee, cocoa, forestry and -- in the near future -- also in tourism."

Impressive Achievements

The results which the Rainforest Alliance certification program has initiated in the field of coffee growing alone are diverse: The "Union Cooperative" in El Salvador pays its members a 25 percent markup on the agreed minimum wage, thus taking into account improved quality and farm management. "Ciudad Barrios Coop" in El Salvador has planted 100,000 trees on its member farms. Forty percent of the areas on the "Santa Isabel Farm" in Guatemala are devoted to forest protection. On a coffee plantation in "Cerrado Reservation" (Daterra, Brazil) dozens of endangered species such as rare parrots, owls, the jaguar and the giant anteater are successfully protected on some 3,300 hectares. The medical clinic which is run by "Lajas Cooperative" in El Salvador offers preventive checks and medical examinations for members of the cooperative and its neighbors. The administration of "Finca Santa Luz" in Nicaragua has modernized all the houses of its workers. Members of the "Peruvian Farmers Association APROECO" use a pathogenic fungus rather than pesticides to combat the coffee pest "broca." Members of the "Peru COCLA Coffee Cooperative" enrich their soils for better humus formation with waste from mills and kitchens. The owners of "Finca El Carmen" in El Salvador have succeeded in reducing their water consumption in the coffee mill by 90 percent.

"We are proud that we have been able to motivate more and more operations and cooperatives of small farmers to shift their coffee cultivation over to sustainable production and processing methods. Our certification concept is based on the holistic triad, whereby we stress environmentally-compatible agriculture just as much as occupational safety models which ensure the workers on farms extensive rights and health care," explains Chris Wille. "All the operations which bear the seal, for example, have to fulfill without exception the most important requirements of the International Labor Organization (ILO), which are part of our certification standards," stresses Wille. In addition the organization takes care of the education and further training of workers, education for the families of farm workers, regular medical care, as well as a fundamental improvement in the living conditions of agricultural families and workers. Wille explains: "In particular this includes solid, suitable housing and apartments, an improved hygiene situation, connection to flowing water and to the electricity network."

In the context of environmental protection it is important for Wille that the existing areas used for agricultural purposes are managed in a more environmentally compatible manner. The objective is that of ensuring in small and large agricultural operations that the biodiversity of flora and fauna is maintained or may be significantly increased. "In addition, through environmentally sensitive utilization of the existing areas we want to prevent new areas having to be developed for agricultural purposes simply because the existing ones have been plundered and exhausted," says Wille. In this context a particular concern of his is the protection of endangered flora and fauna. "The fact that our work is bearing fruit and the results are convincing is also acknowledged by organizations such as the World Fund for Nature (WWF)," says Wille. In a report published by the WWF in January 2007 on the protection of Indonesian elephants, tigers and rhinoceroses threatened with extinction the organization called on the international coffee industry to cooperate with the Rainforest Alliance on local coffee production. "Such support confirms our intensive and passionate commitment to maintaining biodiversity," says Chris Wille by way of summary and not without some pride.