Ecolabel certification in East and Central Africa has increased at an surprising rate as a consequence of a recent surge in demand for specialty coffee. Lesser-known coffee producers like the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi have begun certification while traditional producers Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya have boosted levels of ecolabel use. The East African reports that in less than ten years, coffee certification in Rwanda has grown from one to thirty-five percent.
UTZ Certified and Rainforest Alliance are two labels that are leading the way in the impoverished region. Between 2009 and 2010, UTZ saw a 56% rise in the number of bags of certified coffee sold, while Rainforest Alliance posted a 41% increase between 2003 and 2009.
This is not only good news for certified coffee lovers, but great for the African farmers who receive more money for their products. The premium that consumers pay for certified coffee is passed on to the farmer, providing a strong incentive for ecolabel use.
The rising certification trend would continue if it weren’t for the rampant violence in many prime coffee-growing areas like the Congo. During political strife, resources are diverted, transportation routes are broken and government funding evaporates leading foreign multinationals to divert their assets elsewhere.
Nevertheless, the future for farmers is bright, as increased certification can only help. The effects may already be seen as Uganda is in the midst of a coffee price boom, with per kilogram prices rising in the last few months. If the violence can be curbed, especially in agricultural regions, there is every reason to be optimistic, as certification rates should continue to rise.
Note: Updated Nov. 10, paragraph 3 ‘organic’ changed to ‘certified’.