Organic Coffee Certification
Just what is organic coffee certification and how does organic coffee certification insure the bona fid cup of organic coffee? Organic coffee differs from regular coffee in several aspects. The soil in which organic coffee is grown must have been verified as free from prohibited substances for at least three years. In addition there must be distinct boundaries between land on which organic coffee is grown and land where pesticides, herbicides, and prohibited chemical fertilizers are used. This guarantees that drift of substances sprayed or otherwise applied on adjacent land will not contaminate the organic plot of land. Organic coffee certification includes the adherence to a specific and verifiable plan for all practices and procedures from planting to crop maintenance, to harvest, de-husking, bagging, transport, roasting, packaging, and final transport. Along the way procedures must be in place at every step to insure that there is no contamination of the healthy organic coffee produced in pristine soil with regular coffee produced on soil exposed to herbicides, pesticides, and organic fertilizers.
Organic coffee certification guarantees that the consumer is drinking organic coffee, coffee uncontaminated by unwanted substances. Organic coffee certification also drives up the cost of a cup of coffee. The problem for a small coffee grower is that some organic practices can be more costly than conventional practices. For example, the labor cost of composting may be more than the cost of buying conventional, albeit prohibited, fertilizers. If the coffee farmer cannot obtain a sufficiently high price for his crop his is unable to continue the sustainable farming practices necessary to produce organic coffee. Thus the ability of the consumer to obtain organic coffee antioxidants and other healthy ingredients depends upon the willingness of the consumer to pay for the higher quality coffee available through organic growing practices and organic coffee certification.
Sustainable practices commonly include crop rotation.
However, many crops are not amenable to planting on the steep hillsides commonly used to grow coffee. Thus it is common to plant ground cover between rows of coffee also to plant trees like plantain to secure the soil and prevent erosion. Organic coffee certification requires that the coffee planter use such practices to preserve and reconstitute the soil. Because it is typically not possible to plant other crops in rotation with coffee, there is the problem of soil depletion. Thus organic coffee certification allows that certain commercial fertilizers may be used. However, these fertilizers must come from an approved list. Then they must be used as specified. Certification usually requires that the planter follow a written plan and document procedures and results along the way.