Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages worldwide. In fact in the US, 54% of people over the age of 18 drink coffee (https://bit.ly/2f4jhf7). For many people, the day begins with a cup of their favorite coffee drink. Then there are the ‘coffee breaks’ during the day that are seen as part of the American culture. Simply put, drinking coffee is a large part of the American lifestyle.
Coffee owes its origins to Ethiopia which, to date, produces some of the best coffee available in the global market. Coffee is a tropical crop and has to be imported into the United States. Under tropical conditions, coffee growers are faced with numerous challenges including the management of pests. Today, the challenge from pest infestations is confronted mostly with pesticides; and therein lies the problem.
Pest management in coffee can be extremely challenging for smallholder farmers who produce most of the coffee in developing countries like Ethiopia. Pesticides are seen as the ‘silver bullet’ solution to pest management, but because they are often not well-regulated in many tropical countries, the likelihood of producing crops with pesticide residue is a concern. Sometimes pesticides that have been banned in the US are used for pest management in coffee elsewhere in the world. The banned pesticides can make their way back to the US as residue in imported food since the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspects less than 5% of imported produce (https://bit.ly/2BPIZTC). And so I ask again, is your coffee pesticide-free?
At SUPESTA (http://www.supesta.com), we believe that pesticide use in Africa must be confronted with urgent determination to increase pesticide knowledge among smallholder farmers. Lacking knowledge of the hazards of pesticide use, many smallholder coffee farmers will do everything they can to produce a crop that can fetch the highest premium. Educating these farmers about how pesticides can be a danger to them, their environment, and others is a critical and vital first step.