Exploring ICAFE: The Center of the Coffee Industry’s Technological Advancements

Today we explored ICAFE, Costa Rica’s regulator of the coffee industry.  ICAFE is a uniquely interesting organization, as they are not a government organization but still tax the coffee sector and lead coffee research.  Every company or farm which produces or exports coffee has to pay a 1.5% tax on all sales which goes straight towards ICAFE and funds their research.  As a result, ICAFE has developed techniques to promote healthy and efficient growth of coffee plant to return to the companies which fund it. For Example, ICAFE researches the development of biological and chemical pesticides to kill the pests which disrupt the growth of coffee plants.  It is both important and admirable that ICAFE is researching biological pesticides in particular, as chemical pesticides, which are much more common, may have a devastating effect on the local ecosystem. Organic coffee plantations may deploy biological protections, which usually are composed of fungi, which can prevent the negative effects of diseases and  pest on the plant. ICAFE is leading the coffee industry with cutting-edge technology by growing such fungi and giving them to Costa Rican coffee farms to use.

Due to the advancements of ICAFE, farms are able to combat the conditions which negatively affect the success of the coffee industry.  Not only does ICAFE train farmers to combat these conditions and arm them with the resources to do so, but they also receive samples of new fungi and diseases which have been shown to harm coffee plants.  Thus, whenever a farmer has a problem which hinders the success of his plantation, they can always rely on ICAFE to solve it and provide them with a solution. For these reasons, ICAFE is most essential to smaller farms which cannot afford or do not have the land to conduct their own coffee plant research.  Given that the majority of Costa Rica’s total coffee production comes from small farms, ICAFE holds an integral role in the coffee industry. For smaller coffee plantations, ICAFE is their only means of developing the techniques they deploy and plant strains which are grown.

The only case in which ICAFE might not be beneficial is in the case of larger sized coffee producing and exporting companies. Due to the success these companies have experienced, the 1.5% sales tax which ICAFE expects is actually quite substantial, and worth more than several employees’ salaries.  In addition, the larger coffee corporations have the land and resources to conduct their own coffee research. Many of them actually do. In this sort of situation, the role of ICAFE becomes much more unnecessary, and possibly not worth sacrificing the money which is required to go to them. Still, ICAFE still holds a very important role in the future of the coffee industry, and they are the most likely Costa Rican corporation to revolutionize how coffee is being produced.

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