Interest for organic products has skyrocketed in American and European markets over the past few decades, but growing organic coffee is an intricate and complex process. As consumers, we often associate organic labels as universally beneficial, but there are numerous factors to be considered when determining its impact.
Throughout the 1990s, widespread international market liberalization policies (think free trade) slashed international coffee prices and increased price volatility. Due to the reduction in price of coffee on the world market, smallholder farmers took a substantial financial hit and were forced to adapt. Many farmers refocused and shifted into the specialty market, where coffee yields were more valuable. Farmers strengthened agricultural practices – generally with the help of local coffee cooperatives or international NGO – to prioritize and increase quality. With good reason, the specialty coffee market now grows annually by five to 10 percent.