• QA 242
    What are the terms of trade and premium for 4C-Compliant Coffee?

    What are the buying conditions for coffee under the 4C seal and what is the premium in the trade?

    Asked by:
    Certifier – Colombia

    The terms of trade for 4C-Compliant coffee, including any premium, are freely negotiated between buyer and seller.

    The 4C Association is a non-profit membership driven organisation whose members include coffee farmers (both big and small), trade (importers and exporters), industry (coffee roasters and retailers) and civil society (non-governmental organisations and trade unions).  The aim of the 4C Association is to promote sustainability in the mainstream or large-scale coffee sector.  It is estimated that mainstream coffee accounts for as much as 85 to 90% of all coffee consumed globally.

    The 4C Association does not set prices or premiums. A combination of factors determines coffee prices: the quality of the coffee, the region or country where the coffee is grown, the price on the international coffee market and the relationship between buyer and seller. The 4C system helps to establish a new understanding of quality. By improving the quality of the product, the resulting coffee becomes more valuable. The improved quality attracts better prices that are freely negotiated between the individual buyers and sellers.

    The 4C Association does not use a product label. A product label or seal usually serves as a guarantee for a certain set of criteria towards consumers. Coffee in a labelled retail pack communicates that it has been produced in accordance with certain standards, using certification to ensure this claim is correct. Label-based initiatives have their coffee and farms "certified". They ensure that all the coffee in the retail pack meets the criteria the label stands for.

    The 4C Association has a different approach. Its moderate and more inclusive entry level means that farmers can get started on working towards improved sustainability whilst gradually and continually improving their practices over time. This continuous improvement process is 4C’s main concept - it is why the 4C Association works with independent third-party verifiers to make sure that its members have implemented mechanisms to both measure their improvement process and to assure that they meet a baseline level of sustainability. Therefore, on coffee packs consumers might read that the roaster supports the 4C sustainability approach but they will not see any label or seal.

    For more information visit www.4C-coffeeassociation.org and look for the section on FAQ or Frequently Asked Questions. See also topic 03.05.06 of the Coffee Guide.

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    Q&A 102, 222, 240