Costa Rica exports first batch of deforestation-free coffee

April 26, 2024

Photo: Exclusive Coffees

San Jose, 14 March 2024 –  Costa Rica proudly announced its first shipment of deforestation-free coffee to Trieste, Italy. The deforestation-free harvest was achieved through a pilot initiative led by UNDP, Costa Rican Coffee Institute (ICAFE) and CoopeTarrazú, the largest coffee cooperative in the country. The ceremonial sealing of the container took place at Exclusive Coffees in Alajuela, from which the coffee, purchased by Illy Café, was shipped.

By importing the first 19 tonnes, Italy is the first country in the European Union (EU) to enjoy this coffee. The full batch is comprised of 275 sacks of coffee beans, each weighing 69 kg, and is certified to have been cultivated on Costa Rican farms that did not deforest to expand their agricultural areas since December 2020.

This initiative is a signifcant moment for Costa Rica’s move towards sustainable agriculture, especially in the context EU's upcoming import requirements, set to take effect in 2025. Following the 2019 adoption of the Green Deal, a transformative strategy aimed at making the bloc climate neutral by 2050, the EU has made it clear that imports of products coming from deforestation will be prohibited. This regulation applies to key commodities such as meat, cocoa, coffee, palm oil, soy and wood. Traders must now provide evidence of due diligence for each product, right from its origin. Given that 38.4 percent of Costa Rica’s coffee production is destined for the European market, it is highly important that the country is ready to comply with the EU’s new environmental standards.

Gustavo Jiménez, the executive director of ICAFE, expressed immense pride to be part of this significant moment for Costa Rica's coffee sector amid global environmental challenges. "We are thrilled to announce the first export of deforestation-free Costa Rican coffee, a testament to our country's leadership and commitment to environmental conservation. In just eight months, and with a robust institutional framework and dedication within the national coffee sector, we've met the compliance requirements set forth by the European Union's Green Deal," Jiménez stated.

Echoing this sentiment, Juan Carlos Álvarez Ulate, general manager of CoopeTarrazú, remarked on the cooperative's honor in being the first to export deforestation-free coffee at a national level. "This milestone represents a significant endeavor, including the georeferencing of our producers' farms. It positions us at the cutting edge of coffee cultivation, showcasing the excellence of our associates and staff. Our cooperative leads in sustainability and research, a source of immense pride for us," said Álvarez Ulate.

Photo: ProAmazonia

Recognizing the coffee sector's vital role for Costa Rica’s economy and the country’s commitment to environmental sustainability, UNDP and ICAFE launched the pilot initiative in 2023, as part of the REDD+ Results-Based Payments Project. To guarantee that the exported coffee crop was deforestation-free, producers established the due diligence of their production processes.

"Costa Rica is ahead of its time, ensuring the preservation of a crucial commercial avenue for coffee. This accomplishment underscores the nation's institutional structure and productive capability, rooted in a tradition of sustainability that encompasses economic, social, and environmental dimensions. We are proud to support our coffee producers and partners in this significant stride towards meeting Europe's 2025 regulations," stated José Vicente Troya, UNDP Resident Representative in Costa Rica.

Echoing the importance of adapting to climate change, Carlos Isaac Pérez, Deputy Minister of Strategic Management at the Ministry of Environment and Energy, emphasized: "Adapting to climate change is not just an option but a necessity to maintain our competitiveness. This initiative is a prime example of how adapting our agricultural practices to climate change can enhance our production. The natural resources on our farms are not just assets but partners in our production process."

Given its significant contribution to the country's overall coffee production, the choice to focus on the Los Santos area was strategic. The collaboration with the Coffee Growers Cooperative of Tarrazú (CoopeTarrazú) was pivotal. As the largest cooperative in the country and third most important coffee exporter to the continent, representing 4,500 producers and exporting 25.3 percent of its production to Europe, CoopeTarrazú's involvement was instrumental in the project's success.

This concerted effort underlines Costa Rica's proactive stance in promoting sustainable coffee production, aligning with global environmental goals, and ensuring the country's coffee sector is well-prepared for the international market's evolving demands. 
Key data on Costa Rican coffee:

  • Costa Rica's coffee industry spans 93,697 hectares across seven regions and 49 cantons.
  • 27,393 family groups manage the production, emphasizing the sector's community-based approach.
  • Of these family groups, 85 percent are small-scale producers, showcasing the prevalence of smallholder farming in the industry.
  • 69 producers and 117 farms have successfully completed the due diligence process for deforestation-free coffee, aligning with global sustainability standards.
  • The first harvest of deforestation-free coffee comprised 9,200 fanegas, marking a milestone in sustainable coffee production.
  • A significant 38.4 percent of Costa Rica's coffee production is destined for the European market, highlighting the importance of exports.

For more information, please contact:

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This story was originally published on UNDP Climate Promise website