Cecafé strongly believes in the sustainability of the Brazilian coffee agribusiness chain and compliance with the country’s labor and environmental law—considered one of the strictest and most advanced in the world—as well as in the generation of growing consolidated economic results.
In 2015, Brazil’s green coffee export sector established its Code of Ethics and Conduct, a Compliance landmark in which Cecafé members seek to expand to their supply chain principles of ethics and commitment with the country’s current norms.
Another important initiative was the creation of the Brazilian Coffee Sustainability Seal, which aims to strengthen, recognize and promote Brazilian sustainability.
Supported by the Brazilian coffee agribusiness transparency, sternness and maturity, the Seal reinforces the industry’s sustainability and commitment before global market players, including roasters and consumers throughout the world, since it is above any global certification system.
Brazil already has natural certification due to its social & environmental laws and consolidated economic results. Having this Seal broadly used by part of Cecafé members further promotes Brazilian coffee sustainability and quality, also ensuring its sovereignty and independence from any certification, for the reasons presented in this article and evidence-based data.
In July, Cecafé met with COSAG – Superior Council of Agribusiness and COSCEX – Superior Council of Foreign Commerce at FIESP (Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo) for a debate entitled “International Agricultural Trade”. The event included representatives from FIESP and Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV), from the Ministries of Environment, Foreign Affairs and Agriculture, and from the Permanent Representation of Brazil in the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Professor Vera Thorstensen, coordinator of FGV’s Global Trade and Investments Center and FIESP’s COSCEX member, made a speech on certification systems and the consequent commercial barriers based on sustainability norms. The professor emphatically highlighted to the export sector and Brazilian authorities that the European countries’ current outsourcing process to NGOs results into freedom to explore the precautionary principle, without the due legitimacy and transparency, therefore posing a barrier to global trade. The concerns raised by Professor Thorstensen reinforce Cecafé’s position for Brazil’s natural sustainability by the force of law. The Brazilian Coffee Sustainability Seal is thus a matter of transparency, legitimacy and, above all, national sovereignty.
In the universe of approximately 300 thousand producers, respect to the environment is notorious and clearly identifiable, given the continuous efforts to protect watershed areas, the adoption of rational water handling, and use of advanced farming techniques to reach significant productivity per planted hectare—the highest among producer countries.
Also, the coffee arable land is 51% smaller than that of the 1960’s, considering the current coffee growing area of 2.2 million hectares. In this period, Brazilian coffee growing average productivity went from 6.4 bags per hectare to 33 bags in the 2018/2019 crop, an increase of 416%.
Data from Embrapa Territorial show that the total area allocated to preservation, maintenance and protection of native vegetation in Brazil occupies 66.3% of the national territory. The entire national production takes place in 7.6% of the country. Growers preserve more native vegetation in their properties (20.5% of Brazil) than all conservation units together (13%).
As for the coffee agribusiness, the main production regions sit in states where rural properties have, on average, a percentage of the area dedicated to preservation of native vegetation above the minimum established by the Forestry Code. In Minas Gerais, the amount is 34%; in Espírito Santo, 33%; São Paulo, 22%, and in Bahia, 45% of areas dedicated to preservation.
The high environmental protection rates in Brazilian coffee growing show the activity’s sustainability, also considering the social relevance of production, since 86% of producers are small growers.
In addition, Brazil is the country that passes on the highest FOB – Free on Board (amount negotiated for onboarded coffee bag) to coffee growers. According to the IPEP methodology to calculate the share of internal prices in FOB for Brazilian exports of Arabica, Brazil passes on approximately 84% of prices. Such level show logistics efficiency and transparency in the coffee production chain. Cecafé, as a legitimate representative of the Brazilian coffee exporter sector, carries out several sustainability actions together with coffee growers and other segments, aiming to meet the national interests.
Through its Social Responsibility and Sustainability Programs, Cecafé and its members reaffirm the Country’s commitment to expand the best environmental and social practices to all segments of the production chain.
The Informed Producer Program, for instance, has already trained more than 6,000 producers in digital inclusion, environmental management and good agricultural practices. There are also special approaches for chemical and mechanical weed control techniques in coffee inter rows, and pest and disease management, seeking sustainable alternatives for coffee growing, always respecting the MRL – Maximum Residue Level of the coffee produced to comply with the regulations of the several importer countries. Cecafé and its members, in partnership with pesticide companies and the Global Coffee Platform, among others, is preparing to carry out in 2019 the actions of the Responsible Use of Agrochemicals Project this year, with the following objectives: to make applicators aware of the importance of using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), storing pesticides properly and safely, and promoting integrated pest, disease and weed management.
Adopting PPEs in pesticide handling, as well as having adequate facilities to lodge and feed workers are some of the actions included in the program and extensively adopted in the field.
In the social sphere, the agribusiness wealth has contributed significantly to the generation of millions of jobs and the improvement of the population’s quality of life. Coffee growers follow the same labor laws applied to urban workers, abiding by the strict requirements established by Law.
Cecafé further narrowed its relationship with Inpacto Institute – the country’s most important institution entirely devoted to eradicating slave-like labor in Brazil, taking active part in events like Mesa de Café Brasil and in Coffee Workgroups. The project goal, fully aligned with international demands and expectations and the needs of global market transparency, is to broaden the involvement of all stakeholders in promoting a positive transformative agenda for decent work in the coffee production chain.
It is important to highlight that Cecafé immediately updates its members about any employers charged of submitting workers to slave-like conditions, following audits conducted by Brazilian Federal Government Agents.
The objective of these communications is to inform about the blacklist in confidentiality and only seek to mitigate eventual commercial risks to our members, focusing on preserving the image and reputation of the coffee agribusiness in the world.
Another highlight is the Coffee Children at School Program, which began in 2003 with the objective of setting up Digital Laboratories, with computer equipment and internet access, counting on the educational support provided by an education specialist hired by Cecafé. In total, 137 Digital Laboratories were installed in 95 coffee growing counties, in addition to 1370 computers (10 computers per room), 116 of which with Internet access, with investments of more than R$ 10 million so far.
All things considered, Brazil meets the requirements of the most diverse and demanding markets and is ready to show the world how to balance production with environmental preservation, as seen in the recent commercial agreement signed between the Mercosur and the European Union.
Cecafé, as a legitimate representative of the export sector and a partner for producers and the industry, follows the global trends and understands the need for articulation between the entire production chain.
The Sustainability Seal, along with the Code of Ethics and Conduct and Social Responsibility and Sustainability actions, demonstrates the export sector commitment to further expand successful socio-environmental projects and continue to promote the image of Brazilian coffee agribusiness in the world, meeting the demands of end consumers and fostering coffee consumption.
With active participation of its members, Cecafé follows the global trends and understands the need for articulation between the whole production chain and consumers and will keep moving towards its mission: follow the right path and use communication and other suitable and correct tools for an increasingly sustainable and socially responsible future.
Nelson Carvalhaes- Chairman of the Brazilian Exporters Coffee Council
Marcos Matos – CECAFÉ Managing Director
Lilian Vendrametto – CECAFÉ Sustainability Manager