• QA 077
    What is the significance of the ICO reference numbers found on bags of green coffee?
    Where can we find the meaning of the numbers the ICO presents on bags of green coffee? What is the meaning of each digit?
    Asked by:
    Importer - France

    Many years ago the International Coffee Organization (ICO) instituted an identification code for coffee exports to enable it to apply the export quota system that existed at the time. However, the system has become an important statistical tool in its own right and so remains valid, also in to-day's free coffee market.

    Example: 002 - 1961 - 0978

    • The first group (002, maximum three digits) identifies the country of origin, in this case Brazil. Other codes are 003 Colombia, 011 Guatemala and so on. *
    • The second group (1961, maximum four digits) identifies the exporter. Exporters are registered with the local authority that issues ICO Certificates of Origin and receive a code number from such an authority.
    • The third group (0978), maximum four digits) refers to the individual shipment to which the bags in question belong - in this example shipment number 978 made by exporter number 1961 during the Coffee Year in question. **

    The system allows easy  identification of individual bags: the country of origin, the exporter, and the shipment number for that exporter.

    For shipments in bulk (see section 05.02.06) the shipping marks, including the ICO numbers, are marked directly on the container liner, making them visible when the container doors are opened. The container number is marked on the ICO Certificate of Origin, thereby completing the link.

    Posted 21 February 2006

    *  To see the entire list of country codes and more on ICO Certificates of Origin go to www.ico.org, look under Documents, By Category, Executive Board and trace EB 3775/01.

    ** Coffee Years run from October 1 to September 30 - individual shipment numbers recommence at 0001 every year. See chapter 01 for more on this.

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