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What is organic coffee and why grow or buy it? Definition Organic coffee is grown as part of an intensive, holistic agricultural production managementsystem that includes the composting of organic materials, mulching, shade regulation andbiological pest control. Such a system is based on the principle that a value corresponding tothat harvested should be returned to the soil. It excludes the use of agro-chemicals. For theproduct to be marketed as organic, it must be certified as such by a third party. Variants onthis basic theme, such as shade grown, are discussed later in this chapter.Western countries have developed extensive legislation for organic products. The conditionsthat must be met before coffee may be marketed as organic are both comprehensive and welld e f i n e d . N o c o f f e e m a y b e b r o u g h t t o t h e m a r k e t p l a c e a n d l a b e l l e d o r g a n i cunlessitisprovedtoconformtotheregulations.Inotherwords,coffeecanb emarketedasorganiconlywhenitiscertifiedassuchbyarecognizedorganiz a t i o n o r c e r t i f i e r , b a s e d o n r e g u l a r i n s p e c t i o n o f a l l stages of production, processing, transporting and roasting of the coffee.The first organic coffee cultivation was recorded at the Finca Irlanda in Chiapas, Mexico(1967), and the first organic coffee to be imported into Europe from a small farmers’cooperative came from the UCIRI cooperative in Oaxaca, Mexico (1985). The cooperativeconverted and marketed its coffee with the help of a joint venture formed by a Netherlandscommercial roaster, Simon Lévelt/Haarlem, and GEPA (Gesellschaft für Partnerschaft mitder Dritten Welt), a German

Why do consumers choose organic coffee? Health considerations. Many consumers are increasingly concerned with the content of t h e i r d a i l y i n t a k e o f f o o d a n d b e v e r a g e s : o r g a n i c f o o d s a r e p e r c e i v e d a s h e a l t h i e r. T h i s m o t i v e is less important for coffee than it is for some other crops in that roasted coffee hardly evercontains harmful residues. But there is also a growing body of consumers whose health worries extend to the workers who have to work with the chemicals that are used in thetraditional production system. Demand for specialty coffee. This is growing and organic coffees are perceived as belongingto this category. Although the quality of organic coffee is not necessarily better than that of conventional coffees, the market for organic coffee is increasingly demanding higher quality, which is why organic coffees are often positioned in the specialty segment. The first organiccoffees to appear on the market in the 1980s were good quality arabicas from Mexico, butnowadays lower grades of organic arabica as well as organic robusta are also available. Somequality estates or exporters have their coffees certified as organic to underline their quality,hoping it will be perceived as truly special. Environmental concerns. Other consumers are concerned about the negative impact of agro-chemicals on the environment. They are not necessarily concerned only about healthi s s u e s b u t p r i m a r i l y w a n t t o

erosion and soil degradation .b e s u r e t h a t t h e p r o d u c t s t h e y b u y a r e p r o d u c e d i n a n environmentally friendly way in order to prevent pollution.