Does Eco-Certification Enhance Coffee Quality? Evidence from the Brazilian Cerrado.

Authors: Elinor Benami*,
Topics: Agricultural Geography, South America, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: coffee, quality, eco-certifications, Brazil, trade, cooperative
Session Type: Interactive Short Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Galerie 1, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In the last decades, eco-certification labels have expanded to over 25 industry sectors in nearly 200 countries, aiming to offer products with differentiated social or environmental characteristics among more homogenously-traded commodities. While evidence is mixed that price floors such as those offered through Fair Trade enhance farmer incomes net of their costs, previous research has suggested that business-to-business standards such as Rainforest Alliance can support farmers’ income through improved processing practices, enhancing market access, and/or supporting quality upgrades. As one test of the evidence on these claims, this study examines the quality of coffee supplied from 506 farms to a major Brazilian cooperative from 2008-2016, during which time 75 farms obtained the Rainforest Alliance certification. Employing an identification strategy that exploits variation in cooperative-assessed quality across years for each farm, we find the average share of high-quality coffee deliveries among once-certified farms is associated with modest gains of up to 5% compared with never-certified farms, though the effects are not constant across years, and lose significance once accounting for farms that join then leave certification. Evidence from field surveys among cooperative members with and without certified farms suggests certification could also enhance market access opportunities, though awareness varies widely across the sample. While some of our farmers sell to more than just our target cooperative, assuming side-selling is only conducted to enhance income, and that certification does not restrict market off-takers, detected effects are a lower bound of certification’s potential benefits to producers.

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