Update on eco-friendly coffee market share

by on December 10, 2009

UPDATE: A thorough report with detailed breakdowns of producing and consuming countries, certified roasters and importers, major retailers, and other information is now available on the SMBC web site.

The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center announced that sales of Bird-Friendly coffee in 2008 were $3.5 million, with 61% being sold in the U.S.[1]

For the 2007-2008 crop year, 6 million pounds (2700 metric tons) of Bird-Friendly certified coffee was produced. This certification is at the farm level, with 1400 farms and 5000 ha (12,000 acres) under certification [2].

Nearly all Bird-Friendly certified farms are in Latin America, since the research that led to the launching of the certification took place there and was developed for Neotropical habitats. Peru, Guatemala, and Mexico account for 77% of Bird-Friendly coffee, with Peru producing 39% of the total.

More recently, Bird-Friendly standards have been adopted for Africa, and now about 5% of Bird-Friendly certified coffee comes from Ethiopia. Efforts are continuing to expand criteria and certification to other areas, including other African countries, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia (certified coffee from Sumatra should be available within the next year, according to the report).

You can find a current list of certified farms on the SMBC site.

Growth in other certification schemes
All Bird-Friendly coffee is certified organic, and organic coffee market share has also been growing. North American sales of organic coffee reached $1.3 billion in 2008, up from $1 billion in 2007.  This represents 89 million pounds (40,000 metric tons) versus 84 million (38,000 MT) in 2007.

Rainforest Alliance reports that their certified coffee sales in 2008 totaled 62,296 metric tons (137 million pounds), up from around 40,000 metric tons 89 million pounds) in late 2007. I’ve not found corresponding figures for the number of Rainforest Alliance certified farms/acreage, but when I last reported these figures they were 200,000 ha of coffee on nearly 17,000 farms as of late 2007.

Despite the growth in eco-friendly coffee certifications and sales, this is still a very niche market. Total world production in 2008 was 7.6 million metric tons, making these certified coffees only about 1% of the total produced. U.S. imports of coffee in the first quarter of 2008 were 387,000 metric tons, which means organic coffee imports were under 10% of the U.S. market.

[1] This figure represents coffee actually sold as certified but not all coffee produced under any given certification gets sold as such. Some may be blended with non-certified coffee, the buyer may be interested in other attributes besides the certification and purchases it without intending to market it as certified, or other reasons. In 2006, only about 6% of coffee produced on Bird-Friendly certified farms was sold as such. This situation also occurs with organic, Fair Trade, and other certifications.

[2] When I calculated these figures from the SMBC web site in May 2008, I came up with 28 producers growing on 7200 ha, with production of approximately 3100 metric tons.

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Revised on March 23, 2014

Posted in Certifications

M December 10, 2009 at 4:57 pm

Thanks for the update on these certifications. Do you have any information about what the average premiums to farmers are under the SMBC BF/SG certification? I have always referred to an old publication of Daniele G.'s that estimates the per-pound premium to farmers for organic certification at 25 cents. Later, in email exchange with one of the top folks at RA, I was told that they estimate the per-pound premium at 10 cents. Is there a figure you have heard about the SMBC certification? It is very uncommon among smallholders, which I have always understood as a reflection of their lack of clarity on the return they might expect for their investment in meeting its rigid standards. Thanks for any insight you can offer!

Julie December 10, 2009 at 6:08 pm

M: The latest info I have is that BF-certified producers typically receive a 5 to 10 cent premium on top of the organic premium (since BF coffee is also required to be certified organic). I'll shoot a message over to SMBC and see if that figure has changed in the last year or so.

Julie December 12, 2009 at 6:35 pm

I heard from SMBC regarding premiums. The rule of thumb is still 5 to 10 cents, on top of the organic premium, as some producers use it to negotiate prices and some don't. I was told one Guatemalan producer has received 23 to 30 cents per pound (plus the organic premium) over the last 5 years selling to Japan, so there is quite a lot of potential there.

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