Freshly roasted coffee beans from a Fairtrade cooperative in Indonesia. Credit - Nathalie Bertrams

Coffee growers will soon have to abide by strict due dilligence laws both in the EU and the UK

The first batch of Rainforest Alliance coffee that fully abides by the EU’s new anti-deforestation standards has been shipped.

Grown by a farm in India, the coffee currently on its way to Europe is trialling full compliance with the European Union’s Deforestation Regulation (EUDR), which will officially come into force at the end of the year. 

The High Range Coffee Curing farm supplies leading global coffee brands, roasters and traders including Nestlé, Unilever, E-Com Commodities, Olam, and Continental Coffee – all of which will have to comply with strict new EU rules that aim to rid global supply chains of illegal deforestation.

“Implementing EUDR posed significant challenges for our team, but with the guidance from Rainforest Alliance representatives in our region, we overcame them and gained confidence in the process,” said Zaidan Saly, High Range Coffee Curing director.

“Their expertise made the seemingly daunting task entirely feasible, facilitating a smooth and successful implementation, which now not only guarantees adherence to EUDR regulations but also sparked a revolution in our approach to traceability.”

Coffee is only one of the seven commodities affected by the EU legislation, which was followed by the UK’s announcement to roll out a similar regulatory crackdown on so-called forest-risk commodities also including cocoa, palm oil and soy.

The laws, passed in June last year, will come into full effect on 30 December 2024. Businesses who do not comply face having their products confiscated or banned from the bloc, as well as hefty fines.

However, as The Grocer recently reported, many UK businesses are still not prepared for the upcoming regulations. Smallholders in big producing countries are particularly concerned about being locked out of EU and UK markets without the correct paperwork.

Read more: The deforestation regulation clock is ticking for food and drink

The Rainforest Alliance certification now enables coffee and cocoa farmers to opt in to the EUDR-aligned criteria without any additional costs, in a bid to help companies transition into these new due dilligence systems that require them to track their goods at all stages of the supply chain and be able to provide the right data by the December deadline.

“The EUDR represents an important step forward to shift the global coffee sector towards more sustainable practices – yet many smallholder coffee farmers need support to align with the requirements, including traceability, deforestation risk mapping, local laws, and practical and technical guidance on key environmental practices,” said RA coffee sector lead Miguel Gamboa.

The organisation is also piloting a deforestation risk assessment offering for companies buying non-certified coffee and cocoa ”which we plan to roll out more widely later this year”, Gamboa added.

“With this offering, we aim to support more companies in their journey to compliance, but more importantly, to also reach non-certified farmers so their products can still be sold on the EU market.”

In response to calls from some companies and governments for the EU to weaken the legislation or postpone its deadline, the RA urged the EU Commission not to dilute or delay.

It also called on companies not to scale back purchases from smallholder coffee farmers, “but rather support them in meeting the deadline of this critical legislation”.