Study finds UTZ Certified farmers in Colombia earn more

A Colombian research institute has found that Colombian coffee farmers working to UTZ Certified standards coped better during a period of adverse conditions from 2008 – 2011. The Centre for Regional Entrepreneurial and Coffee Studies (CRECE) compared the situations of 278 UTZ farms and 579 non-certified farms in Colombia. At the time of the study the coffee sector was experiencing unfavourable weather patterns, an infestation of Coffee Berry Borer and an outbreak of coffee rust, combined with high fertilizer prices. CRECE found that non-certified farmers experienced a drop in yields of 52 per cent over the four years, while UTZ farmers maintained their yields and increased their incomes. The study found that by 2011 UTZ farmers’ net income was 65 per cent higher than those who were not part of the program. “[The study] confirms our belief that good agricultural practices provide a solid foundation on which to build greater productivity,” said Han de Groot, Executive Director of UTZ Certified, in a statement.  “Thus ensuring farmers are more resilient in the face of unexpected events.” UTZ said the training provided to farmers meant they were able to implement good agricultural practices, resulting in lower production costs than the control group. Consequently, their income was double that of the control group by 2011. It said the UTZ certification also had a positive effect on the working conditions of farm workers, with 81 per cent provided with protective clothing by the fourth year. This was compared to 35 per cent of non-certified farmers. “Impact evaluations of sustainability standards remain limited, therefore we hope that this research can contribute to the worldwide debate on their impact,” Carlos Ariel García Romero, who directed the research at CRECE, said in a statement. “The research shows that the scope of UTZ’s sustainability standard is multi-dimensional, impacting social, environmental and economic conditions.” UTZ said the research also highlighted some challenges it needed to address to further improve the positive impact of its work in Colombia. This included supporting smallholders, maintaining training levels and ensuring best practice is followed for written contracts as its priorities. UTZ said it had already taken steps to address several of these issues.

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