Nicaragua produces some of the world’s best high-altitude Arabica coffee, but farmers need to be certified if they want to stand any hope of competing
Nicaragua is widely recognised as one of the best coffee growing areas in the world. A combination of the right soils, climate and altitude has earned this small Central American nation an important foothold in the global specialty coffee market. Yet, as with other coffee-producing countries, the sustainability of Nicaragua’s second largest agricultural export is far from assured. Fluctuating global prices, disease (Central America as a whole has been hard hit by coffee leaf rust) and changes in weather patterns due to climate change all pose very real threats.
In large part, product certification represents a response to these challenges. The last few decades have seen a boom in international certification standards. Among the most influential are Fairtrade (under the FLO International and FLO-CERT brands), Netherlands-based UTZ and the US-headquartered Rainforest Alliance. All operate in Nicaragua. A number of roasters operate their own certifications too, with Starbuck’s C.A.F.E Practices perhaps the best known.
Becoming certified isn’t without its costs, so why do producers bother? The most obvious answer is economic. First and foremost, certification offers farmers a minimum price and – ideally – a price premium. Secondly,...