Traditionally, coffee was grown by small-scale growers in situations that were close to coffee’s natural growing conditions. They used agroforestry systems that were high in biodiversity and free of agrochemicals.
Coffee production has undergone similar changes to other crops. In efforts to raise production volumes, coffee growers have adopted hybrid plant varieties that are higher-yielding, and that grow better in full sun. Because these hybrids required heavy applications of artificial chemical fertilisers and pesticides, growers increased applications polluting the crop, local water supplies and soil, and harming wildlife, farm workers, and consumers.
To maximise production and economic return, growers who used the hybrid varieties have been responsible for the deforestation of large areas of diverse shade trees that were growing on traditional farms, resulting in habitat loss, wildlife elimination, erosion and runoff into streams and lakes.
In many countries coffee is still grown in agroforestry systems providing a diverse multi-crop farming system. But little is grown without agrochemicals. Organic coffee production is a growing industry. It relies on the traditional ‘intercrop’ coffee trees with various kinds of shade and fruit and nut trees. This creates biodiversity and host for wildlife, as well as providing erosion control.
Some organic growers comply with Fair Trade regulations that provide consumers with the altruistic benefit in terms of assurance that workers on the farms have been working under appropriate terms and conditions, and free from exploitation.
The amount of organic cocoa produced worldwide is a very small percentage of the total. World production is approximately 3 million tonnes with only 357,000 tons of this organic. No organic cocoa is produced in Australia currently. In the region, Bougainville has an organic cocoa production project currently being developed.
Organic chocolate production uses some cocoa in some products.