Peru could develop some of the most sustainable coffee regions in the world

In 2015 I visited several sustainable coffee cooperatives of the Central Jungle region of Junin. I was impressed with the way organic coffee grew amidst of the beautiful forests, and that the coffee was grown in an agro-ecological way. As consultant this visit had motivated me to pay more attention to sustainable coffee development in Peru in cooperation with European companies and institutions.

In this article I would like to argument that ideally Peru could develop some coffee regions as one of the most sustainable coffee regions in the world. First, because Peru is the world’s greaters exporter of organic coffee, and first in quality of organic coffee. In general, and historically Peru’s production has not been exposed to chemicals, which has lead the country to be organic by nature. Furthermore, a great part of coffee production is agro-ecological, especially in the Central Jungle of Peru (Selva Central) due to its geographical conditions. This means that ideally coffee grows amidst the vegetation and trees are not cut down. Coffee is planted on all types of land, and little erosion or soil loss occurs because the coffee trees simulate natural forest conditions, providing shade and fixing nitrogen. Shade-Grown coffee farms create a micro climate that helps to conserve the environment, flora, fauna and the aquifers.

Second, although the coffee sector is dominated by big corporations, in Peru many coffee cooperatives are active, which not only support small farmers but also verify the quality of the coffee and its sustainable certifications. These cooperatives produce high quality and/or specialty coffees with different kind of sustainable certifications like the organic, Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and Bird Friendly certifications. Big transnational corporations on the other hand tend to sell volumes of coffee at low prices, and in general don’t pay an extra price for quality or sustainability.

Thirdly, Peru’s coffee producers have been winning international coffee competitions in greater frequency the last two years. These international prizes are important as Peru still has a reputation to gain for its organic high quality and specialty coffees. So it still receives lower prices for its coffee than Colombia who has built an excellent reputation. As Peru’s coffee gains popularity, it is more likely that its reputation and consumption in the world will improve. This is very much needed for the coffee cooperatives to survive in the competitive coffee market dominated by transnational corporations.

But apart from the strategic advantages Peru has, it still has a lot of sustainability challenges to tackle. Coffee still causes deforestation, especially when new lands at a higher altitude are used for coffee production because productivity on current lands is decreasing due to climate change. In the coffee chain coffee farmers still suffer from low income and a lack of sufficient investment to enable a real sustainable production. Coffee honey in some zones is contaminating the rivers causing fishes to die. Coffee machinery could be more efficient and a transition toward more use of clean energy like sun or biogas would be beneficial.

New business models can be applied to generate additional income for coffee cooperatives and to become more sustainable. For example coffee waste can be used to make new products. Apart from coffee, coffee farmers could consider incorporating other tropical fruits and vegetables that grow in the forests which can be used in a sustainable way.

Considering the heavy rains and inundations caused by climate change recently, sustainable and preventive practices need to expand and consolidate.

The above is also the reason that my consultancy KROONABLE set up a project proposal in 2017 for a group of coffee cooperatives to develop the Central Jungle region (the biggest coffee region of Peru) as the most sustainable coffee region. This project would be based on a trade alliance of these coffee cooperatives and European coffee importers who are willing to invest in sustainable transitions. So in June a preparatory trade mission took place to the coffee cooperatives in Chanchamayo, Selva Central.

Here below some pics and video’s

coffee article 5