Voluntary certification schemes including UTZ, Rainforest Alliance, Organic, Fairtrade, 4C... etc convey themselves as voluntary. That means farmers have the choice to be certified or not. However, the market now dictates one form of certification or another. Thus farmers are compelled to join the certification and are required to pay ridiculously high certification/audit/re-certification fees every year. Some coffee co-operatives have multiple certifications which they must pay for annually. This is really expensive for farmers.
For me, this begs the question on how voluntary are the certification schemes. Do farmers really have a choice to decide - or are they compelled by their buyers?
I totally agree with you Amos. But at some point a beg to ask another question,is certification really the solution in coffee farming and marketing?
Thats an absolutely important question Mark. But probably we also need to ask ourselves who drives the certifications. Is it the producers or is it the consumers? There is so much good that we can attribute to the certification e.g. the premiums paid under Fairtrade or the governance enforced under UTZ. However, are the certifications responsive enough to producer issues? What role do they exactly play in improving the livelihood of farmers? I think the jury is still out there....
Can all these certification standards be harmonized to have one general common standard? I think its very confusing and expensive to the farmers to be certified based on all these standard.