At last month’s SCAA Symposium, we were invited to reexamine our assumptions about sustainability in coffee — what we think we know about the issue that may not be true. At the time, I thought that exercise produced some provocative responses. And then I read a recent study on the impacts of organic and Fair Trade certifications in Nicaragua, whose authors advance four hypotheses that happen to be four of the most widely held beliefs in the sustainable coffee movement:
- Organic coffee costs less to produce, since farmers spend less on agrochemicals.
- Farmers earn higher prices for certified coffees.
- Farmers selling certified coffees have higher coffee incomes.
- Farmers selling certified coffees have lower poverty levels.
Turns out, only one of them was confirmed.
I will publish a full review of the study here next week.
Meantime, ask yourself: what do you think you know about sustainability in coffee (that may not be true)?