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  PlanetArk 18 May 06
Colombia Steps up Sales of Eco-Friendly Coffee
Story by Jeff Coelho

PlanetArk 17 May 06
El Salvador Tropical Coffee Forests Threatened

SAN SALVADOR - Tropical forests that house El Salvador's famed coffee plantations and provide habitat for migrating birds are being depleted at an alarming rate, scientists warned on Tuesday.

Between 2001 and 2004, the country lost 21,025 hectares of forest-covered coffee farms, Mario Acosta, president of El Salvador's Foundation for Coffee Research (Procafe), said.

El Salvador last year planted around 161,000 hectares of coffee, the vast majority of it grown on wooded plantations. With the greatest population density and smallest land size in Central America, El Salvador was long ago cleared of virtually all its native forest.

Coffee farms, where bourbon variety coffee trees flourish under a thick shade canopy, provide 75 percent of El Salvador's remaining forest cover.

"Just in the period between 2001 and 2004, we lost 21,025 hectares with the accompanying environmental degradation, with the problems this means for watersheds and all the problems of unemployment in the countryside," Acosta told reporters at the opening of a regional conference on the role of the coffee industry in the environment.

The dramatic losses took place during a sustained period of record-low coffee prices which led many farmers to abandon their land, in some cases ceding it to encroaching urban expansion.

In recent years, environmental groups have embraced El Salvador's coffee industry, noting the role it plays providing habitat for migrating birds and other wildlife.

A recent joint study by Procafe and Washington-based research group Resources for the Future, presented at the conference, found that 13 percent of El Salvador's so-called coffee forests were lost in the 1990s.

The report blamed coffee forest depletion on urban expansion, a lack of investment and renewal of coffee trees, farmer indebtedness, migration and weak regulatory oversight of land-use changes.

The El Salvadoran coffee industry shed some 70,000 jobs during the period of low prices and now employs about 90,000 people directly. The country exported 1.3 million 60-kg bags of coffee in the 2004/05 coffee year, generating income of US$164.5 million.

Despite being the country's the main agricultural export, coffee income is a fraction of the over US$2 billion the country receives annually from the estimated 25 percent of its population that lives abroad, mainly in the United States.

PlanetArk 18 May 06
Colombia Steps up Sales of Eco-Friendly Coffee
Story by Jeff Coelho

NEW YORK - The head of Colombia's largest coffee growers' group vowed Wednesday to make sure that 10 percent of its total coffee output will be certified by social and environmental programs by 2007.

"There should be, by 2007, about 1 million (60-kg) bags of certified coffee, and that will be about 10 percent of Colombian coffee," said Gabriel Silva, chief executive of the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia (FNC).

The FNC, representing more than 500,000 Colombian coffee farmers and their families, has added conservation group Rainforest Alliance to its mix of social and environmental certification programs, including Fair Trade and Utz-Kapeh.

"We are announcing the launching of the first Juan Valdez certified coffee by Rainforest Alliance. It will be in all of our cafes in the US and around the world," he told reporters at a conference hosted by the conservation group.

FNC aims to produce about 300,000 bags of coffee certified by Rainforest Alliance over the next two years, he said.

Rainforest Alliance is a nonprofit organization helping farmers and companies balance economic, social and environmental development by means of conservation. The Fair Trade label guarantees that farmers and workers received a fair price for their products, while Utz-Kapeh is a worldwide certification program that sets the standard for responsible coffee production and sourcing.

Growing consumer demand for certified coffee by social and environmental programs has prompted more farmers and coffee roasters to sell certified products. Chris Wille, chief of the Rainforest Alliance's sustainable agriculture program, said his group certifies about 30,000 tonnes of coffee, up from about 5,000 tonnes five years ago.

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