Coffee is a woody, perennial evergreen dicotyledon belonging to the botanical family Rubiaceae, which contains some 500 genera and over 6000 species1. Most of these are trees and shrubs which grow in the lower storey of tropical forests. Coffee is by far the most important member of the family economically, of which two species are traded widely: Coffee arabica, referred to as “Arabica”, which accounts for between 60% and 70% of world production.

Coffee canephora, referred to as “Robusta”, which comprises 30% to 40% of world production.Two other species which are grown on a much smaller scale are Coffee liberica (“Liberica” coffee) and Coffee dewevrei or Coffee excelsa (“Excelsa” coffee), both of which are traded, but to a very limited extent. Arabica: Original Arabica strains generally produce good liquors with acidity, and have the greatest flavor and aroma characteristics, but are susceptible to pests and diseases. Resistance is thus a major goal of plant breeding programs. A number of more tolerant varieties have been developed over the years, including the well known varieties “Typica” and “Bourbon”, which are considered to be the first cultivars of Arabica.Many different strains and cultivars have been developed from these, such as “Caturra”, “Mundo Novo”, “Catuai” and “Blue Mountain”. Generally speaking, Arabica coffee is grown throughout Latin America, in Central and East Africa, in India and, to some extent, in Indonesia2. Robusta: The term “Robusta” is actually the name of a widely grown variety of Coffee canephora.

It is a small tree (up to 10 meters in height) that can grow at lower altitudes than Arabica, with higher yields and with better resistance to disease. The beans, however, are of inferior taste than Arabica, and have twice the caffeine content.Robusta coffee commands a lower price on the market, and is often used for soluble coffee or to give a caffeine “boost” in espresso. Robusta coffee is grown in West and Central Africa, throughout South-East Asia and to some extent in Brazil3. Coffee is the second most valuable legally traded commodity on Earth (after oil) with global retail sales of coffee estimated to be $70 billion. Of this approximately $6 billion finds its way into the hands of the producing countries, and the rest goes to those who market it and sell it to us in various forms (and often for ridiculously high prices) in places like coffee bars.Coffee is unusual in that 70 per cent of the world crop is grown on farms smaller than 25 acres, and hence it is often a family run, and people intensive endeavor that provides a living for over 20 million people around the world. Below are some statistics about countries that are the leading world coffee producers.

These figures are based on the number of 60-kilogram bags produced (the industries standard measure) during the 2002/2003 crop year, the last period for which statistics have been finalized by the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

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