Equal Exchange is committed to supporting sustainable agriculture practices. For over 20 years we've developed relationships with small farmer co-ops. Each of these co-ops has its own unique social, political and ecological history and is engaged in fostering sustainable agricultural production systems. Our mission to work with small farmer cooperatives has led us to work in regions with extensive landscape degradation. The market access we provide to producers in these regions is critical to restoring these landscapes.
Over 90% of Equal Exchange coffees are certified organic by volume. The majority of these organic coffees are shade grown. Some of the coffees that are not, are produced in locales where deforestation has occurred. The land in these areas is in transition; it is in the process of being restored with agro-forestry systems using coffee as the principal crop.
Up until now, Equal Exchange has not applied for certification for its shade grown coffees. The shade grown certification process is a relatively recent development which is extremely labor intensive and costly for farmers and co-ops. This seal along with our other certifications would have resulted in a prohibitive cost to consumers. In the past, the market demand didn't justify the expense.
However, the increased interest in organic certification and the resulting increase in trained organic inspectors has stimulated the demand for shade grown certification and is making it operationally more accessible to Equal Exchange. We are currently exploring the range of options for shade grown certification that are now available to us.