Productivity and profitability of multistrata organic versus conventional coffee farms in Costa Rica
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In areas where traditional multistrata coffee systems have been transformed to systems with patchy or no shade at all, often dependent on high chemical inputs, ecological and socioeconomic degradation has become an increasing issue. During the 1990s, rising environmental and health concerns have promoted the interest in organic production systems and their environmental services for natural resource conservation. This study compared productivity, profitability, producer-defined constraints, and goals and research priorities between ten individually paired organic and conventional coffee farms in Costa Rica. Although five of the organic farms matched or exceeded the production of their conventional counterparts, the three-year mean yield of the organic farms as a group was 22% lower than that of the conventional farms. However, excluding organic certification costs, mean variable costs and net income (NI) were similar for both groups, mainly because organic price premiums received by the farmers compensated for lower yields. If current organic certification costs are included, the price premiums paid to organic producers would have to increase to 38% in order to equal the NI from conventional coffee. Conventional farmers indentified low and unstable prices as the main constraints to sustained production and stated further intensification of production as their main goal. In contrast, the key issues for future development of the organic group centered on farm diversification, agroecological self-sufficiency, and agronomic practices that permit organic farm management.
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