Coffee is grown on about 12.5 million farms across the “bean belt” – a band of land on either side of the equator with suitable climate and soil conditions spanning more than 50 countries.

Roughly 95% of coffee farms are smaller than 5 hectares, or 7 football pitches. These small farms produce about three-quarters of the world’s coffee. The remaining quarter is produced by large coffee estates. Fairtrade works with smallholder coffee.

Though they produce significant volumes, smallholders have little negotiating power in coffee supply chains that are dominated by large roasters and traders. Just five coffee traders controlled half of global green coffee in 2019, while more than a third of the world’s coffee was roasted by the top 10 roasters.


Salient issues

Smallholder coffee farmers struggle to earn enough for a decent standard of living. Research suggests that among the ten largest coffee producing countries in 2018-2019, only farmers in Vietnam and Brazil were on average earning enough from coffee to escape poverty. Child labour has been reported in coffee production in 17 countries.

Many coffee growing areas are among the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world. But this biodiversity is at risk as climate change pushes coffee farms to new areas. By 2050, major coffee producing countries are predicted to lose 30-60% of the land fit for coffee cultivation.

It takes concrete collaboration among all the companies in coffee supply chains, governments and civil society to address these risks and root causes.

The salient issues in the coffee sector (in the order of saliency):
Living Income

Coffee prices are extremely volatile. In 2016-2019, falling coffee prices thrust more coffee farmers into poverty. More recently, coffee farmers have struggled with rising production costs and erratic weather patterns such as frost in South America.

Living Wage

Most jobs at coffee farms are seasonal, informal, paid by day and pay less than living wages. Smallholder families do most farm work themselves but many coffee plantations employ large workforces.

Water & Biodiversity

The search for suitable land for coffee production, spurred by climate change, is causing deforestation and biodiversity loss. Wet coffee processing, the most popular processing technique, requires large amounts of water and can pollute waterways.

Climate Change

Coffee production may contribute to global warming through the use of nitrogen fertilizers, deforestation, emissions from soils, pruning, wastewater and crop residues decomposing on the ground.

Gender Rights

While women head 20-30% of coffee-producing households, they typically have less access to land, inputs, credit and training. Women workers on coffee farms hold fewer permanent contracts and do lower-paid tasks. 

Child Rights

The economic insecurity resulting from the COVID-19 global pandemic has increased concerns about child labour and child rights in coffee-producing areas.

More information on risks in coffee

Root causes

Value distribution: The above risks are rooted in unfair distribution of value. Most of the gains are captured by roasters, retailers and traders who yield most power over the price and terms of trade. Farmers fear that the growing consolidation of the global coffee industry will fuel greater price pressure.

Climate change: In many regions, coffee farmers are facing increasing water scarcity, extreme weather events, pests and plant diseases that reduce coffee yields and lower farmers’ livelihoods.

Background data on coffee (*Global Volume / **Fairtrade Volume)

Largest producer countries*

  • Brazil (39.4%)
  • Vietnam (16.5%)
  • Colombia (8.2%)
  • Indonesia (6.9%)
  • Ethiopia (4.2%)
  • Others (24.8%)

Dominant production model*


of all coffee is produced in smallholder farms

2016, FAO

Global production*


million metric tonnes

2020, ICO World Coffee Production

Fairtrade certified producer organisations**


Data from 2022. Updated in March 2024.

Fairtrade certifiable production**


metric tonnes, 2022. Updated in March 2024.

Farmers in Fairtrade organizations**


Data from 2022. Updated in March 2024.

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Companies can be part of the solution by identifying and addressing the most serious risks and root causes in collaboration with farmers, workers and other affected people. Sign up to receive updates as we add new information to this Map, or to hear how Fairtrade can support your corporate sustainability due diligence.

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