Coffee is one of the world's most important agricultural commodities. The revenue generated from coffee is second only to cotton. The coffee industry employs over 25 million people worldwide and is an important crop for developing countries. It provides much-needed export revenue for more than 50 tropical countries.
The United States is the single largest consumer of roasted coffee. The American and European markets are very important for the coffee industry. By providing high-grade, high-quality coffee to these markets, coffee-producing countries can receive a higher price for their coffee.
In order to improve the quality of their coffee, many countries have begun programs aimed at educating farmers and improving production techniques. Cooperatives have been formed to provide local access to specialised machinery and materials with the aim of standardising and improving coffee production.
In recent years, countries such as Rwanda have seen the construction of coffee washing machines. This allows coffee cooperatives to produce fully washed coffee. Coffee can be sold at a higher price than the market rate which results in increased income for farmers and coffee exporters.
Other countries are investing money and effort in catering to the specialty coffee market. In Honduras funding is being used to create local cupping capacity to identify coffee that can be sold on the specialty market.
Rwanda has been growing a special variety of coffee since colonial times that is highly valued in specialty markets. Regulatory reform is allowing Rwanda cooperatives to deal directly with large Western retailers such as Starbucks and Lobodis.
Many other countries are also allowing direct trade between cooperative producers and retail markets. By improving the quality of the coffee and standardising grading procedures, producers are finding that they can have more direct contact with the retail market thereby realising greater profits.
Rwanda Savors the Rewards of Coffee Production (The New York Times) By Carter Dougherty, Published: July 27, 2004
Coffee Markets: New Paradigms in Global Supply and Demand Agriculture and Rural Development Discussion Paper 3 Bryan Lewin, Daniele Giovannucci, Panos Varangis, (World Bank Group) March 2004
Rwandan farmers benefit from quality coffee
USAID's Response to the Global Coffee Crisis
USAID supports coffee growers around the globe
Rwandan coffee farmers head upmarket