Improving Quality


During the recent collapse of world coffee prices, many exporting countries suffered one of their worst economic crises for years. Coffee farmers experienced great hardship and the situation led to problems of a social and political as well as economic nature. Consumers, on the other hand, became increasingly aware of the downside of this situation, not least because there was a risk that obtaining high quality coffee could become increasingly difficult.

It was in this context that the International Coffee Council first adopted Resolution 399 on 24 May 2001 encouraging ICO Member countries to take measures to divert defective coffees from the market and requesting the Executive Director to consider such further studies as might be needed in this connection. These studies (such as a study on improving the global coffee supply/demand balance through measures designed to eliminated low-grade coffees contained in EB-3778/01) indicated that it should be possible to implement measures designed to improve the quality of coffee on the global market through restricting exports of coffee below a minimum accepted quality level and diverting low-grade coffee to alternative uses. As a result the Executive Director introduced a document outlining a framework for action needed to implement a Coffee Quality-Improvement Programme (CQP). A Quality Committee was then established through Resolution 406 which included four representatives of the private sector who participated as expert advisers.

Coffee quality improvement programme

Following the recommendations of this Committee, the International Coffee Council adopted Resolution  407 in February 2002 to implement the Coffee Quality Improvement Programme (CQP), subsequently modified by Resolution 420 adopted in May 2004. The Programme consists of target standards for exportable coffee, providing that exporting Members shall strive not to export coffee that has the following characteristics:

  • For Arabica, in excess of 86 defects per 300g sample (New York green coffee classification/Brazilian method, or equivalent); and, for Robusta, in excess of 150 defects per 300 grammes (Vietnam, Indonesia, or equivalent);
  • For both Arabica and Robusta, moisture content below 8 percent or in excess of 12.5 percent, measured using the ISO 6673 method.

The CQP also envisages the development of alternative uses for sub-standard coffee.

The CQP is designed to improve the balance between supply and demand of coffee by stimulating demand through the provision of a better overall standard of quality to the market. It thus reflects the objectives of the International Coffee Agreement, which are set out in Article 1 of the Agreement. In the longer term the CQP can be seen as an important tool in stimulating growth in demand for coffee, since there is growing evidence that deteriorating quality in blends is correlated with stagnant or declining output, with price a less significant factor. Reports on progress on implementing the CQP are considered by the Council at regular meetings.

Assistance with implementation

Governments requiring technical assistance in implementing the programme should contact the Executive Director, Mr Robério Oliveira Silva.

The following documents provide information on implementing the programme:

  • Resolution 420: Coffee Quality Improvement Programme
  • Additional information to be entered on Certificates of Origin in compliance with ICC Resolution 420 (ED-1918/04).

The following documents provide information on enhancing coffee quality by prevention of mould formation:

  • ED-1988/06 - Guidelines for the prevention of mould formation in coffee, prepared as part of the ICO/FAO/CFC project "Enhancement of quality in coffee through prevention of mould formation":
  • Code of practice - Enhancement of coffee quality through prevention of mould formation
  • Guidelines for green coffee buying


In addition, the website  provides information for all those concerned or interested in eliminating the formation of Ochratoxin A (OTA) and how best to protect or reduce its incidence in coffee.  It was developed by the FAO as the Project Executing Agency for the ICO sponsored project to eliminate or reduce the formation of moulds.  Managing the risk of OTA contamination in coffee involves chain management from the tree to the finished product. Key factors in the successful management of OTA involve good hygiene practices along the chain, rapid drying, and avoiding the re-wetting of coffee by ensuring clean and dry storage and transportation.

More detailed information and background documentation on good hygiene practices along the coffee chain is provided in the training tool "Good Hygiene Practices along the coffee chain" which is available in English, French and Spanish from the training section of the website This project is particularly important in view of the decision by the EU to introduce limits on OTA in roast and soluble coffee (document ED-1940/05).  



Good quality




Good quality