World Wildlife Fund Says Major Companies Buying Coffee Grown Illegally

If you’re a coffee lover like me, then there’s a good chance that you’ve got a cup of coffee on your desk right now. Did you know that the coffee you’re drinking right now could have been illegally grown inside one of the world’s most important national parks for tigers, elephants and rhinos? According to an investigative report by World Wildlife Fund (WWF), illegally grown coffee from Indonesia is mixed with legally grown coffee beans and sold to companies like Kraft Foods and Nestle along with a lot of other major companies in the USA and worldwide.

The World Wildlife Fund tracked the illegal cultivation of coffee inside Indonesia’s Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park all the way through its export routes to multinational coffee companies and then on to grocery store shelves across the US, Europe, and Asia. The World Wildlife Fund used satellite imaging, interviews with coffee farmers and traders, and the monitoring of coffee trade routes. The World Wildlife Fund says that “Trade of illegal coffee is possible because neither exporters nor importers have any mechanisms in place to prevent the illegal beans from entering the supply chains.”

In a recent press release, the World Wildlife Fund goes on to say that the “Bukit Barisan Selatan, is one of the few protected areas where Sumatran tigers, elephants and rhinos coexist. It has already lost nearly 30 percent of its forest cover to illegal agriculture, most of which is for coffee production.”

According to the report released by The World Wildlife Fund investigation recently, the World Wildlife Fund “found farmers growing coffee on more than 173 square miles of park land (about two-thirds the size of Chicago) and producing more than 19,600 tons of coffee there each year. Most wildlife has already abandoned the sections of the park that have been illegally converted to coffee plantations. Illegally grown coffee is exported to at least 52 countries.”

The report says that the World Wildlife Fund found that most companies buying this coffee were unaware that the coffee was being grown illegally.

The World Wildlife Fund is “asking involved coffee-buying companies to work with local Sumatran growers and traders to provide incentives to switch to sustainable coffee production outside the park. The report recommends that Indonesian authorities prevent further encroachment into the park and develop regulations that prevent illegally grown coffee from infiltrating international trade.” I totally agree. The coffee companies have a responsibility to make sure that they coffee that they buy is not being grown illegally. If I buy a stolen car from someone the car is still stolen. If a company buys coffee that has been grown illegally then the coffee is still illegal.

If you’re interested in downloading the report from the World Wildlife Fund about illegally grown coffee, then it can be downloaded here.

Here’s a snapshot of most of the important points from the report:

* WWF’s investigation found that in 2003, exported unwashed coffee beans leaving Lampung — tainted with coffee grown illegally in BBS National Park — totaled 216,000 tons. Export volume increased to 283,000 tons in 2004 and 335,000 tons in 2005.

* The United States, Germany, Japan and Italy were the largest importing countries of tainted Lampung coffee in 2004 and 2005, accounting for more than 50 per cent of all coffee imports from the region. Other significant recipient countries include Algeria, India and the United Kingdom.

* Records of the Cooperative, Industry and Trade Service of Lampung Province show that Taloca, Kraft and Nestlé were the top recipients of coffee from Lampung in the years 2003, 2004 and 2005, respectively. Other companies identified as recipients of Lampung coffee include Marubeni, Itochu, ED&F Man, Andira, Nestle, Lavazza, J. Mueller Weser, Pacorini and World Transport. Folgers (P&G) and Tchibo have also received small shipments of coffee from Bandar Lampung’s exporters.

* One company, Nestle, has responded to the report, launching an effort to clean up part of its supply chain and advise farmers on how to produce higher quality coffee. Some of the coffee companies approached by WWF have also indicated they are willing to support the development of sustainable, legal coffee production outside the park. This would ensure a reliable market for coffee farmers and provide a reliable, sustainable source of legal coffee for the companies. And the park’s rhinos, tigers and elephants will benefit from having production and its subsequent environmental damage moved outside the park boundaries.

* To further this effort, WWF has entered into an alliance with ForesTrade, a company with a long history of establishing sustainable development programs in Sumatra, and Rainforest Alliance, an organization best known for its global efforts to certify sustainably produced coffee. WWF is also in discussions with the new Common Code for the Coffee Community Association (4C), whose founding members include several recipients of illegal coffee. The aim is to encourage 4C members to help prevent further damage to BBS NP and undo the damage coffee production has already done to the park and its wildlife.

* The Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park is believed to be home to approximately 40 adult tigers. There are fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild and they are considered critically endangered. The park is home to an estimated 500 Sumatran elephants, 25 per cent of the remaining population of the endangered subspecies. It is also home to an estimated 60-85 Sumatran rhinos, the largest population on the island, where they are found in only three other national parks. Sumatran rhinos are critically endangered.

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