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Costa Rica has launched a "sustainable" coffee seal

Date: 12-Apr-02
Country: COSTA RICA
Author: Veronica Vega

The seal, which President Miguel Angel Rodriguez launched this week, aims to raise rural living standards, strengthen the global reputation of Costa Rican coffee and add value to certified growers' beans. The Costa Rican Coffee Institute (Cafe) said it will monitor farms to ensure compliance.

"The country is sending a message to the world that it cares about the environment, labor laws and social justice," said Icafe director Juan Bautista Moya.

The plan comes as Central American countries, conscious they cannot compete in terms of quantity with No. 1 and No. 2 producers Brazil and Vietnam, seek ways to add value to their beans and boost demand on depressed world markets.

Central American arabica beans are prized worldwide for their quality, but production costs are among the world's highest. The region has thus been hard-hit by low prices on world markets, forcing many growers out of business.

Countries from Guatemala to Panama, and more recently Mexico, have seen exports plummet. A small but growing amount of the region's coffee is already exported under ecological and social seals awarded by U.S. and European companies who certify beans as "organic", "fair trade" and even "bird-friendly."

Such beans fetch hefty premiums on supermarket shelves.

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