Understanding Labor in Coffee Production
The global coffee supply chain begins on farms across Africa, Central and South America, Asia, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico – ending in your cup.
But coffee is a unique agricultural product, and its journey is complicated by more than just distance.
One cup may contain coffee harvested from several farms, then collected, sorted, graded, co-mingled with coffee from other farms, re-bagged, and blended with other green beans that have gone through a similar process.
And across countries and continents, the conditions under which coffee is grown are just as drastically varied.
Family farms, handed down through generations and worked by family members, are much different than the large, mechanized enterprises dependent on a paid labor force. From individual farmers to commercial subsidies, coffee farms range in size from barely an acre to nearly a million trees.
Similar to how every coffee lover has their individual preference, understanding production at origin is extremely specific.
The coffee industry is committed to working in partnership with governments and NGOs around the world to source coffee responsibly – and partnerships are essential.
According to the ILO and Walk Free Foundation, forced labor in agriculture (forestries and fisheries) represents a relatively small part (11-12%) of the overall occurrence of abusive labor practices, of which coffee is a small fraction.
Labor conditions for coffee workers are not just a reflection of an individual farm or the company buying coffee, but the place in which the coffee is grown. In many instances, a lack of effective government, corruption, social upheaval, and broken infrastructure can contribute to poor working conditions.
As part of our commitment, the NCA has teamed up with the Sustainable Coffee Challenge, an initiative facilitated by Conservation International that is dedicated to making coffee the world’s first sustainable agricultural product.
In collaboration with experts from the Challenge and other labor-rights-focused organizations, we've curated key resources for understanding and addressing problems that may exist with labor conditions.
The NCA has also developed member-exclusive content and FAQs.
NCA Member Exclusive Resources