• QA 151
    How to enter the export market for organic coffee?
    We are located in Veracruz - Mexico, where we produce organic coffee. We have been certified organic for over 12 years but in this country organic coffee does not sell well so we would like to enter the export market. What advice can you give us?
    Asked by:
    Grower - Mexico

    All organic certifications are registered and, therefore, to a certain extent public knowledge. Your certifier should be able to provide you with names of certified exporters of organic coffee in Mexico and, probably, also importers abroad. * 

    However, please bear the following in mind…

    • What quantity can you offer? Registering a new certified supply chain is relatively costly for an importer, especially if the quality of the coffee is not particularly outstanding. If so then a potential supply of just one or two containers annually may not attract too much interest.
    • Is the quality really good? If not it will be difficult to obtain a premium over conventional coffee.
    • Your certifier must be accredited for the export market you are targeting. ** 
    • You should preferably provide representative samples of coffee that is actually available.
    • If you cannot ship a full container load (abt 18 tonnes) the export costs will increase exponentially which will be reflected in the price the buyer is willing to pay. For this to be worthwhile the quality will truly have to be exceptional.
    • A potential buyer will expect you to provide a full description of your operation and its history; details of your certification; the port from where shipment will be made; etc. And of course, your expectations…

    Chapter 3 Section 2 of the Guide offers information on the organic coffee markets of Europe, the US and Japan. The box 'I want to sell/buy coffee' on our homepage provides names and contacts of coffee trade associations in importing countries but, as mentioned, we believe your certifier should be able to assist you with the identification of importers. Chapter 11 of the Guide deals with coffee quality generally whereas Chapter 12 deals with quality control issues.  A number of entries in the Q&A Archive are also relevant - please see below.

    Another source is found at http://legacy.intracen.org/dbms/organics/index.asp - click on 'Importers'.

    In the European Union, the market for organic food is regulated by Council Regulation EEC 2092/91 of 24 June 1991 and subsequent amendments.  To note however that this Regulation is being replaced by "Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 of 28 June 2007 on organic production and labelling of organic products and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91". The new Regulation will come into force on January 1, 2009. See the full Regulation at
    http://www.organic-europe.net/europe_eu/eu-regulation-2092-91.asp . All major European certifying organizations operate according to this regulation, although in some respects some organizations, such as Naturland in Germany, apply stricter standards. See section 03.02.08 of the Guide.

    In the United States, the market for organic food is regulated by the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). The National Organic Standards (part of the National Organic Program, NOP) became effective on 21 October 2002. OFPA itself was adopted in 1990 to establish national standards for the production and handling of foods labelled as 'organic'. Today organizations that are fully NOP-compliant (certified) may label their products or ingredients as organic, and may use the 'USDA Organic Seal' on organic products in the United States, irrespective of whether they are produced domestically or are imported. As a result of NOP there is therefore a single national label in the United States to designate organic products, thereby avoiding the label confusion that exists in Europe. A list of accredited certifying agents can be found on the USDA (NOP) website www.ams.usda.gov/nop  and on www.ioia.net - Independent Organic Inspectors Association. See section 03.02.09 of the Guide.

    In Japan, the market for organic food is regulated by the the Japan Agricultural Standard (JAS) for Organic Agricultural Products that entered into force in April 2002. Enacted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, JAS regulates the production and labelling of organic food items produced in Japan. Although coffee is not grown in Japan, JAS nevertheless also covers organic coffee (and tea) under 'organic agricultural products'. The JAS standard has been further revised in 2005. Only Ministry-accredited certifying bodies may issue JAS organic certification for coffee to be imported into Japan. See section 03.02.15 for names and website addresses of some of the certifying bodies currently known to be active in coffee in Japan. Interested certifying bodies in producing countries may also apply for accreditation under JAS. And, subject to meeting the JAS standard for their products, set by the Agriculture Ministry, suppliers of organic coffee and tea may display the JAS mark, giving Japan also a single organic label for the entire Japanese market. See section 03.02.10 of the Guide.

    Posted 30 May 2007


    Related chapter(s):
    Related Q & A:
    Q&A 027, 029, 032, 036, 039, 047, 086, 116, 124