According to a recent investigative report released by the World Wildlife Fund - WWF, coffee lovers around the world may unwittingly be drinking coffee that has been illegally grown inside one of the world's most important national parks.
Indonesia's remote Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, which is an important habitat for the likes of Sumatran tigers, elephants and rhinos, is also being used for illegal agriculture most of which is coffee production.
The WWF report goes on to say that the illegally grown coffee beans from Indonesia are mixed with legally grown beans and then sold to such well known companies such as Kraft Foods, Nestle and other major US and foreign companies.
The World Wildlife Fund tracked the illegal cultivation of coffee inside Indonesia's remote Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park (BBS) all the way through its export routes to multinational coffee companies and the shelves of grocery stores across the United States, Europe and Asia using satellite imaging, interviews with coffee farmers and traders, and by monitoring coffee trade routes.
Trade of illegal coffee is possible because neither exporters nor importers have any mechanisms in place to prevent the illegal beans from entering the supply chains. Bukit Barisan Selatan, a World Heritage Site on the southern tip of Sumatra Island, is one of the few protected areas where Sumatran tigers, elephants and rhinos coexist. It has already lost nearly thirty percent of its forest cover to illegal agriculture, most of which is for coffee production.
Indonesia is the world's second-largest exporter of the Robusta coffee bean, which is most often used for instant and packaged coffee sold in supermarkets. At least half the country's coffee is exported through the port of Lampung, which is very close to Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park.
WWF's investigation found farmers growing coffee on more than 173 square miles of parkland and producing more than 19,600 tons of coffee there each year. Most wildlife has already abandoned the sections of the park that have been illegally converted to coffee plantations. Illegally grown coffee is exported to at least 52 countries.
The report determined that most of the companies buying the coffee likely were unaware of its illegal origins. WWF provided draft copies of the report's findings to the top recipients of Lampung coffee tainted with illegal beans from Bukit Barisan Selatan. The reaction of the companies has been mixed. Some companies are currently in discussion with WWF on how to avoid purchases of illegally grown coffee, boost production of sustainably grown coffee and restore wildlife habitat in the park, while others have denied any purchasing of illegally grown coffee.
WWF is also asking involved coffee buying companies to work with local Sumatran growers and traders to provide incentives to switch to sustainable coffee production outside the park. The report recommends that Indonesian authorities prevent further encroachment into the park and develop regulations that prevent illegally grown coffee from infiltrating international trade.
A spokesman for the WWF recommends the multinational coffee companies mentioned in this report should implement rigorous chain of custody controls to ensure that they no longer buy illegally grown coffee, as well as support park protection and restoration efforts.