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  • Undergrades or lowgrades

    Finally, there are the undergrades or lowgrades, which are basically everything that does not fit into any of the earlier descriptions (11.02.01 and 11.02.02). There has traditionally been an active trade in undergrade coffees because there was a definite demand for them. Not everyone always knows 'the price' for such coffees, which can make trading them very opportunistic.

    For the United States market, undergrade coffee is any type of coffee that grades below GCA type 6 (120 defects per 370 grams. In mid 2002, United States Customs regulations prohibited the importation of coffee below GCA type 8 (610 defects per 370 grams) with suggestions from some quarters that this should be raised to type 7 (240 defects per 370 grams). Other importing markets do not normally specify that particular grades of coffee should not be imported, relying instead on general food and hygiene regulations.

    The ICO has introduced a set of worldwide minimum export standards in an attempt to remove the lowest coffees from the market altogether. The higher risk of mould and therefore OTA occurring in lowgrades is also likely to reduce the demand for such coffee. See Chapter 12, Quality control issues, section 12.02 for more on this.

    As a result it may be that over time lowgrades and rejects will lose some or most of their commercial value, thereby becoming part of the producer's or exporter's cost calculation rather than representing an exportable coffee.