The coffee industry, by all accounts, is booming. According to a report from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), “the global market (retail) value of the coffee sector will experience a 5.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2018 to 2023.” This from an industry, which states, was already valued at USD 200 billion in 2018! Not surprisingly Africa, East Africa specifically (the key players being Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda) with its ideal climate and rich farmlands, plays a vital role in the industry as one of the world’s major coffee producers. predicts that East Africa’s coffee industry is likely to grow by 7.5% from 2019 to 2024 and claims that there is even speculation that it will replace South America (Brazil being the world’s largest coffee producer) at the “top of the global market within the next five years.” also refers to a survey that shows that “South Africa’s coffee industry is also thriving, with 13.3% increase in coffee consumption from 2014-15 to 2017-18.”

But, warns things aren’t as rosy as they appear. While major traders and roasters are capitalising on the growing demand, farmers are struggling to see similar profit margins while battling various stress factors such as price volatility, climate change and recurring outbreaks of pests and diseases – meaning that there’s a real threat that demand will outgrow supply if action is not taken. This is supported by the IISD’s findings and go on to explain that it’s disincentivising farmers from staying in the sector, which is worrying as 67–80% of the world’s coffee farms “are smallholder farms primarily located in developing countries including 22 Low Human Development Countries (LHDCs) [this includes Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda] …”

George Bertolis, CEO of Coffeequip, urges fellow members of this industry to invest in creating a sustainable future for the industry, through active participation in sustainability initiatives:

“We have a duty, not only to supply our customers with the best quality coffee on the market but to also provide it with the assurance that they’re supporting an ethically sourced and environmentally mindful product. We, as the first point of contact with the client, have the most power to affect change and address the issues that affect our fellow members in the industry supply chain.” broke down the largest problems that producers (coffee farmers) face into what they call the major stress factors:

3 Major Stress Factors:

But, and IISD also state that some measures can or are being taken to overcome these stress factors, specifically through sustainability commitments.

Sustainability Commitments:

A lot more can be done to reinvest money from this major market into ensuring that there’s still a market 30 years from now and it’s the responsibility of those that stand to gain the most (roaster and traders) from this to action these sustainability initiatives.

The quantity of certified and verified coffee that the top roasters buy, especially those that have undergone various mergers and acquisitions, vary as they try to establish autonomy and identity but also because they each differ in opinion about what a sustainability standard should entail – there’s no one global standard.

“[W]hen well executed, Sustainable Sourcing programs… tend to align with this general definition: A known relationship with producers that goes beyond the transactional to include a sense of equity manifest in mutual and transparent processes that promote best practices in coffee production and processing, to safeguard the rights and well-being of producers, workers, the community and the environment.”

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