Espresso, latte, ristretto, decaffeinated… Coffee is one of the most popular beverages around the world. The coffee bean is the second most heavily traded commodity in the global market after petrol: more than 25 million farmers are involved around the world to produce coffee in more than 50 different countries. Currently, and due to the increase in the consumption of organic & healthy products, the global organic coffee market is growing and has a big potencial ahead.

café ecológico
Roasted organic coffee beans. 123@bhofack2

Organic coffee: Area and market value

According to FiBL‘s latest report The world of organic agriculture (2021), 709,118 hectares of the global coffee area were under organic management in 2019, making it the second most important organic crop at the moment, second only to olives. Thus, organic coffee production already represents 6.7 percent of the total area of this crop.

As in previous years, coffee was the key organic permanent crop in Africa, with 330,253 hectares reported, representing 12.5 percent of the total coffee area of the continent and 47 percent of the world’s organic coffee area. Specifically, the largest organic coffee areas were in Ethiopia (over 160,000 hectares) and Tanzania (almost 82,000 hectares). Latin America also standed out with 268,418 hectares of organic coffee. By region, Peru (with 102,730 ha), Mexico (72,900 ha) and Nicaragua (over 31,000 ha) accounted for the largest area on the continent.

Coffee is the second most important organic crop at the moment

While it is true that the report shows a decline in the area of organic coffee cultivation (20,201 ha more were counted in 2018 than in 2019), there are currently 11,905 ha under an organic conversion process worldwide. Specifically, Nicaragua concentrates most of the area in transition (8,209 ha), followed by Vietnam (1,700 ha), Colombia (909 ha), Bolivia (552 ha), Ecuador (261 ha) and Indonesia (218 ha).

Imports increase

The market is still active and growing. In 2019, the import volume reached 130 Metric Tones, an increase of 11.1% over the previous year. Peru and Honduras were the main exporting countries with 58% of coffee exports (respectively 32% and 26%).

The fresh organic coffee segment accounted for the majority market share during 2017 and will continue to grow during the estimated period. Various end-users such as specialty coffee shops, foodservice chains, and other wholesale customers highly prefer fresh organic coffee over organic roast and ground coffee because fresh organic coffee offers longer shelf life, a study by Industry Research points out.

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Organic coffee beans on the branch. 123@khunaspix

Market trends and forecasts

Organic coffee market was valued at $6.8 billion in 2018, according to Allied Market Research‘s data. And forecasts are optimistic: it is expected to reach $12.6 billion by 2026, registering a CAGR of 8.2% from 2019 to 2026.

By category, the Arabica segment led, in terms of organic coffee market share, in 2018 with about two-third market share (65%), and is estimated to retain its dominance during the forecast period. On the basis of packaging type, the stand-up pouches segment dominates the global organic coffee market with market share little less than 50%. However, the new (and more sustainable) packaging segment, such as jars and glass bottles is expected to grow significantly. 

There are currently 11,905 ha under an organic conversion process worldwide

In terms of distribution, the physical channel is the most important. Supermarkets and hypermarkets account for approximately 30% of organic coffee sales. It is closely followed by the online sales channel (which has the highest growth forecast), specialty stores and convenience stores.

Ethical and sustainable production

By definition, organic coffee is farmed under an agricultural system that meets a series of environmentally friendly conditions: the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides or insecticides is banned, and the crops must be grown promoting the conservation of soil fertility, improving the health of the ecosystem and boosting biodiversity.

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Mug with roasted coffee beans. 123@iiinuthiii

It is true that organic coffee is sold at a higher price than conventional coffee. This is due to the fact that in the conventional trade of coffee there is a significant imbalance between the benefits that farmers receive and the large companies that market and distribute the product. Conventional trade is based on large farms, intensive production, price speculation and a large number of tiers in the production chain, which reduces farmers’ profits to a minimum. Furthermore, in many of the countries where coffee is grown, human rights are not respected, women are banned equifrom owning land in their own name and child exploitation is systemic.

Against this crude reality, Fair Trade guarantees more equitable and responsible trade relations. The result is ethical and quality products that are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. This is based on: selecting raw materials that are grown in cooperatives of producers, often formed by disadvantaged groups, as well as maintaining long-term relationships with producers to ensure a fair price in production and a sufficient economic margin so that they can continue the activity and live in dignified conditions. As Oxfam Intermón indicates, compared to the 6% of the final price of the product that conventional coffee producers receive, Fair Trade producers receive 15% of the profits.

Fair Trade guarantees ethical and quality products that are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable

Certification guarantees

That is the reason why much of the organic production of this product is also certified under the parameters of Fairtrade. According to data collected by the International Trade Centre (2020), between 20.7% and 49% of the cultivated area of coffee is certified both as organic and Fairtrade.

Elements such as the distinctive taste and origin, nutritional quality, socioeconomic factors and environmentally friendly production have a substantial impact on the world industry of this product and make the difference between conventional and organic coffee.

AlterNativa3: pioneer of organic and fairtrade production in Spain

AlterNativa3, a Spanish cooperative that has been producing organic and fair trade products since 1992, works under this concept. With the aim of offering responsible, sustainable and quality alternatives to the usual consumer products, it produces more than 100 tons of fair trade and organic coffee per year.

Its founders, Rosa and Antonio, were pioneers in introducing organic food and Fairtrade in Spain at the beginning of the 90’s and in producing organic coffee with their 100% Fairtrade coffee roaster, the first and only one in Spain. Since then and until today, from their production plant in Terrassa (Barcelona), they roast coffee and elaborate selected products, taking all of the peculiarities of each type of coffee into account.

AlterNativa3 was a pioneer in introducing organic food and Fairtrade in Spain in the early 1990s

The feedstock used to produce their products come from small cooperatives located in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, often made up of minority and disadvantaged groups. The coffee beans come from crops grown in their countries of origin, making up to 15-18 different varieties. When they arrive at the cooperative, they are combined, mixed and roasted at low temperatures until the perfect aroma and flavor is found. Once the process is finished, the beans are cooled and prepared for packaging, ready to be distributed to specialized stores, restoration establishments and individuals, also through online sales.

café ecológico AlterNativa3
Coffee roasting process in AlterNativa3’s production plant. ©Bio Eco Actual

Extensive, quality production

More than 400 products are part of the current catalog of AlterNativa3. All of them are organic and made without chemicals or treatments harmful to health or the environment, guaranteed by the Fairtrade and the EU organic certificates on each one of their products.

Among the main references, there is a wide variety of fair trade and locally produced organic coffee in different formats and flavors: ground coffee, beans, diet, soluble, in pods, in single-dose sachets and decaffeinated. Added to this extensive list are the new biodegradable origin coffee capsules, recently presented, and a new line of zero waste articles, including bamboo cups, plates and thermos, to minimize waste and promote new, more sustainable consumption models.

Nuevas cápsulas compostables, de AlterNativa3
New compostable capsules, by AlterNativa3

Beyond production

Although the roasting machinery works non-stop, AlterNativa3‘s day-to-day work goes beyond production. Remaining faithful to its values, the cooperative carries out awareness-raising activities to publicize this reality and social projects in countries of the Global South to accompany the growth of producer cooperatives. It understands networking with other organizations that promote fair trade, environmental sustainability and solidarity economy as the best way to achieve its objectives of creating a more equitable society based on respect for human rights and the environment.

Author: Ariadna Coma, Journalist.

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Bio Eco Actual, Independent European Organic Press
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