LONDON, UK – How the UK Coffee Sector is responding to and mitigating deforestation? The British Coffee Association (BCA) tries to answer to this difficult question. The Association releases its Position Paper on how the UK Coffee Sector is responding to and mitigating deforestation. This paper highlights the collaborative approaches already being taken by the coffee industry and sets out some of the ways in which coffee production and reforestation can work side by side.
Uk coffee sector: some data
Coffee imports into the UK are around 3% of the global coffee market, however, statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organisation indicate that the combined UK and EU market is around 50% of global coffee trade. How these markets focus on coffee production is therefore important in delivering sustainable solutions, which address the challenge of deforestation whilst returning living income returns to producers.
The first point: is coffee a forest risk commodity?
The conversion of forest to farmland is generally recognised as the primary cause of global deforestation where over 8.5 million hectares are removed each year. Studies, such as the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, acknowledge coffee as being a small contributor to this statistic. There is, however, a recognition that the global increase in demand for coffee, which we expect to see continue, will have an increasing impact.
Regulatory approaches at both UK (Environment Bill) and EU (Green Deal) level highlight the concept of forest risk commodities. The Global Canopy Programme defines forest
risk commodities as “globally traded goods and raw materials that originate from tropical forest ecosystems, either directly from within forest areas, or from areas previously under forest cover, whose extraction or production contributes significantly to global tropical deforestation and degradation”.
Unlike a number of other commodities, however, coffee has advantages in its production which allow it to happily co-exist in a mixed environment where the benefits of cropping alongside other plantings can be seen in both the product quality mix as well as the producer income level. Supporting these commercially-driven actions through their recognition in the negotiating mandate – which the UK takes forward into future trade agreements – would be a key action.
BCA recommends the following actions
Involving a partnership approach between industry and Government, and require close liaison and coordination across the European coffee market as a whole:
Role of Shade Coffee:
In the last decade there has been an increasing focus on the resurgence of shade coffee, driven not only by its lower environmental footprint but also on the back of increasing demand for the quality spectrum of speciality coffee supply. Recognising the lower yields associated with this production, a growing number of purchasers have increased returns to producers whilst also building producer awareness of the need for environmentally-conscious production. Research has also given producers the opportunity to couple coffee production with productive shade cover in terms of citrus, banana and even palm oil trees.
The role of yield and productivity:
World Coffee Research, in its 2020 Annual Report, recognises that “better plants and better information, alongside innovative approaches are all needed to maintain farmer wellbeing and meet sustainability goals”.
The UK is at the forefront of efforts to introduce standardisation in terms of sustainability metrics, one example being the work of the Sustainable Food Trust – a programme receiving broad support within the UK, from producers through to retailers, and is looking to broaden its scope beyond the UK.
A case of reforestation?
In 2019 the International Coffee Organisation commenced its public-private task force which brought together a range of actors from Governments, industry/private sector
and supporting organisations to take forward an agreed position – the London Declaration. A wide-ranging pledge aimed at improving the position of coffee producers, the task force is specifically covering the promotion of competitive and sustainable production and sourcing.