Are Geographical Indications a way to "decommodify" the coffee market?

The commodity nature of green coffee is the main cause of “the coffee paradox” (decreasing prices at production level and rising prices at consumption level). So, a requirement to reach a less unfair distribution of the added value between the supply chain would be to “decommodify” the coffee market not only at the final consumer level, but also at the production level. Certifications (like Fair Trade, Organic, Rainforest Alliance, Utz Kapeh, or Birdfriend) are often presented as a way to reach this result, but according to some authors these schemes seem to be rather an extension of the standardization wave to new quality attributes (linked to social and/or environmental characteristics of the production process). Geographical indications (GIs) seems to be very different in this respect. GIs’ Codes of practices (which include the delimitation of the production area and a description of the production norms and product quality) are normally elaborated by the local actors themselves , who are able to define the link to the terroir (physical and anthropic characteristics of the production area ). The aim of this article is to question the ability of GIs to “decommodify” the coffee market also on the production side, and contribute to a fair distribution of the benefits of decommodification. The paper is based on the analysis of the design process of a GI coffee in the Jarabacoa region (Dominican Republic), which led to a very selective Code of practices but not so specific with regard to the link with the territory. The article evidences the chain of causality that brought to such a result, and debates to what extent the case can be considered as context-specific. Given that it appeared that most of the determinants are generic to the coffee world, the relevance of GIs as a tool to “decommodify” the coffee market must be qualified.

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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-08-25

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