The Impact of Geographical Indications on the Economic, Cultural, Social, and Environmental Pillars of Sustainability: The Case of Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee

By June Francis and Randolph-Dalton Hyman.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability in Economic, Social and Cultural Context

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Geographical indications (GIs) are a means by which developing countries with specialty or traditional food products rooted in their respective locales can capitalize on their uniqueness. GIs are “ ... indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a member, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristics of the good is essentially attributable to its geographic origin” (US Patent and Trademark Office). A key advantage of GIs is that that these products can command higher prices and ideally be more rewarding for farmers and producers, while encouraging more environmentally suitable farming methods. Many countries, including Jamaica, have introduced regimes to provide legal protection and governance structures for these GIs. However, very little information is known about the conditions under which these marketing schemes can succeed. This paper addressed this research gap by investigating the extent to which these GIs can provide a fair return to farmers, and help sustain traditional and sustainable farming methods. The results of a series of interviews conducted with Jamaican farmers, especially small farmers, as well as various industry stakeholders involved in the growing production, governance and marketing of Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, suggest that returns to small farmers are related to the power distribution in the value chain. Further, the governance structure dictates the power relationship in the value chain. Hence in designing GI systems, careful attention needs to be paid to the GI governance structure to ensure fair returns at all levels of the value chain. Importantly, without fair returns to the farmers and good governance over the farming methods, this approach will not provide the economic and environmental sustainability sought.

Keywords: Geographical Indications, Economic Sustainability, Environmental Sustainability, Small Farmers, Coffee Industry, Jamaica

The International Journal of Social Sustainability in Economic, Social and Cultural Context, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp.1-13. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 273.686KB).

Dr. June Francis

Associate Professor, Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, Canada

June Francis’ work has focused on international marketing, especially the internationalization of small to medium-sized firms. Her recent work focuses on the Caribbean and Latin America, with a special interest in the legal and business nexus related to poverty alleviation and development. Her most recent previous works-Collateral Damage: The War on Drugs, and Latin America and Caribbean Region: Policy Recommendations for the Obama Administration co-authored with Gary A. Mauser-examines the economic and development cost of the US war on drug policies.

Dr. Randolph-Dalton Hyman

Dr., Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Dr. Randolph-Dalton Hyman’s work focuses on training the next generation of environmentally conscious dance artists, educators, and entrepreneurs. His research aims to rethink education by using Kierkegaard’s conceptualization of subjectivity. Specifically, his work explores performance-based practices and theories across disciplinary categories and cultural boundaries. He uses Jamaica as the site for his fieldwork, where he explores the conceptualization of dance and performance studies for social change to address social and environmental issues. His current interest extends to empirical examination of economic, social, and cultural issues that pertain to sustainability and development, with a view to facilitating artistic expressions for change.