Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Is Organic Coffee Getting Scarce?


We came across an article today that made us a little sad. Hundreds of thousands of pounds of organic coffee are sitting in warehouses in Latin America, waiting silently and no one is coming. Growers all over Latin America are taking losses in sales because they can't fetch the higher price needed to cover the costs of natural pesticide use and smaller yields from non-chemical fertilizers, and they're ultimately switching back to chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Approximately 10% of organic growers have defected back to regular coffee growing, and 75% of the worlds organic coffee is coming from Latin America - Mexico to Costa Rica.
On the other side of the coin, Starbucks says they were only able to purchase organic beans about 3% of the time last year. And in response to questions as to why this was the case, Starbucks stated: "Our purchases of certified organic coffee are limited due to the limited quantities available worldwide and the constraints of the organic certification system for farmers." These constraints of organic farming include farmers absorbing the cost of organic farming for a minimum of three years before becoming certified, since agencies determined the soil must remain pesticide free for 3 years. Further, organic farms trap more carbon than their chemically managed counterparts and are thus better for the environment.
We need to decide if a healthier, safer product is worth the increased cost. And if it is, we should be demonstrating our commitment to a responsible product with our purchases, and urging organizations like Starbucks to do the same.

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