This post is a bit technical, but at Ally Coffee we take social, environmental, and economic sustainability very seriously, and we want to transparently and comprehensively share what goes on behind the scenes. Farms in coffee origins around the world have the option to pursue certifications that continue all the way to final consumer packaging in the form of logos or seals, like Fairtrade, UTZ, and Rainforest Alliance. However, there are also many pre-competitive farm certification and verification programs that exist but whose names are not familiar to consumers or to most folks in the coffee industry.
These pre-competitive programs involve the same group-drafted, thorough standards and regular audits as do the more familiar certifications. Rather than relying on global non-profits to draft the standards and private third-party for-profit businesses to conduct the audits, local in-country programs like Minas Gerais, Brazil’s Certifica Minas Cafe turn to regional government departments — including ministries of agriculture and their affiliated research partners — to carry out the same standard setting and auditing work.
To confirm their adherence to best agricultural practices, coffee farmers in the Minas Gerais state are eligible to voluntarily participate in the Certifica Minas program. The goal of the program is to encourage coffee producers as individuals and coffee farms as businesses to document their best practices for observing international expectations for responsible, sustainable agriculture.
The objectives of Certifica Minas Cafe are:
• Develop best management practices conformant to other standards and global rules, such as those outlined by Global Coffee Practices, 4C, and UTZ.
• Further the exchange of technology, rule setting, and advancements among national and international coffee production entities
• Follow the precedents set by national organizations and international organizations like the UN’s Food & Agricultural Organization (FAO)
• Establish standards based on known concepts and criteria for
o Responsible Management
o Food Security
o Best Agricultural Practices
o Environmental Protection
o Workplace Hygiene and Safety
o Social Responsibility
o Economic Sustainability
Similar to other certification programs, Certifica Minas Cafe codes the elements of its audits as Obligatory, Restricted, and Recommended. Here are some of the program’s requirements, organized by category.
FIELD and NURSERY
Any seedlings purchased from a source outside the farm must have proof of origin and phytosanitary state. Lot planting must be registered on a map. All agrochemical products must be approved for use with coffee and applied according to the prescribed concentrations, using the proper tools and protective gear, kept in a secured facility, and empty containers locked and properly disposed of. All applications must be recorded and grace periods before re-entry to fields must be observed. Integrated pest and plague management is recommended. All operators of irrigation systems must be trained and registered.
Harvest, drying, and storage dates and times must be recorded. Any milling and storage facilities must maintain accurate registers of all stores. There must be an updated register of coffee commercialization [contracted sale and affected delivery]. There must be no evidence of fraud, bribery, extortion, corruption, or any immoral business relationships, as prescribed by law. If any, coffees stored on the property must be identified.
All water sources on the property must be indicated on the farm map and the property must adhere to environmental legislation. Soil conservation efforts in coffee plots and across the farm must be in place. Agrochemicals cannot be used near water sources. Post-processing water should be recycled. Deforestation, burning, and the destruction of primary forest or other natural resources is strictly prohibited. Toxic products must be properly disposed of.
Child labor, forced labor, and human trafficking are strictly prohibited on the property. Discrimination of any kind is prohibited. Workers are free to organize. Workers have the right to found, belong to, and be represented by an independent organization of their choice. All workers must have access to healthcare. On farms with more than 20 full time employees, there must be a system for workplace accident prevention. Employee wages must be commensurate with local laws. Risk areas must be identified and it is recommended to provide all employees with a health exam.
TRAINING AND PROPERTY MANAGEMENT
All equipment operators must be property trained, as must harvesters and manual laborers. Workers applying agrochemicals or driving vehicles must be trained before beginning their roles.
Farms must complete an annual analysis of coffee production costs. A complaint handling procedure should be in place, which should contain a simple claim registration form, as well as tracking, investigation, response, settlement and closing of the claim.
Minas Gerais is Brazil’s largest agricultural state and produces most of the country’s coffee, making the volumes of coffee coming from Minas Gerais greater than those produced by many of the world’s other coffee producing countries. Certifica Minas Cafe is only one of many pre-competitive best practices programs in Brazil. Many of Ally’s producer partners participate in this and other programs and their involvement furthers our confidence not only in their adherence to best practices but in their commitment to documenting these efforts in order to share that confidence with the rest of the supply chain and with final coffee drinkers.
Regulamento do Programa Certifica Minas Café
Secretaria de Agricultura, Pecuária e Abastecimento do Estado de Minas Gerais
Anexo A: F.GEC.055 — Normas para certificação de propriedades cafeeiras — 1ª Revisão — 17/02/2017
Thank you to EMATER-MG Guaxupe regional director Willem Guilherme de Araujo for providing the source material.
For more information:
See http://www.ima.mg.gov.br/certificacao/cafe for program home.
See Global Coffee Platform report on 4C (and now UTZ) benchmarking.