December 18, 2023

Importing Coffee from Honduras

If you’re considering importing coffee from Honduras, or have already started the paperwork, many steps and hurdles lie ahead on the path. Both Honduras and the importing country have requirements for the international movement of goods. It takes time, effort and capital to get set up to import coffee from Honduras. However, depending on your goals for the coffee, the benefits of autonomous importation may be worth the effort of establishing an import channel.

Whether you are a coffee roaster, a coffee shop owner or are in charge of beverages for another organization, you may see signs that selling directly imported coffee could be lucrative. Eliminating links in the coffee supply chain can seem attractive. The benefits might include any of the following:

  • Avoiding coffee contaminated with pesticides, fungicides and decaffeination chemicals 
  • Ensuring the coffee farming and bean processing was environmentally conscious
  • Acquiring a coffee that is high quality, specialty or unique
  • Providing transparency of origins to discerning coffee drinkers
  • Capitalizing on an in-country relationship with a coffee farmer or supplier
  • Removing middlemen who inflate prices
  • Enjoying the fun and autonomy of importing coffee directly from the grower

No matter the reasons for importing coffee from Honduras, it’s vital to learn what will be required. The prospect of importing coffee can be invigorating. However, it requires research, proactivity, diligence and funds. 

In the US, the importing process is complicated by regulations. Since Canada has its own regulations, focusing on the rules guiding US residents who are set on importing coffee from Honduras will help a more specific audience. While the regulations from the USDA, FDA and Customs and Border Protection are numerous, they do protect the quality and safety of our food supply. We’ve summarized the need for regulations to make the many hoops a coffee importer needs to jump through seem more reasonable and logical.

The Need for Regulations When Importing Coffee from Honduras

Since coffee is an agricultural product, special regulations govern importation. These prevent the spread of pests, bacteria and fungi. Just like foreign diseases can affect humans who don’t have a resistance yet, organisms brought across borders can cause biological problems. Therefore, governments take measures to ensure that trade involving foreign organisms doesn’t threaten local plants, animals or humans. 

Regulations and potential inspections may seem like bureaucratic overkill. However, they exist to protect the population from deliberate infections. In the US, after September 11, the Bioterrorism Act was created. It prevents terrorism conducted via foods and beverages that people ingest, and through tainted objects. Regulations governing agricultural and ingestible imports prevent problems like the Anthrax scare in 2001. Letters with the poison Anthrax were mailed to political and news figures, sometimes with deadly results.

Nowadays, importing coffee from Honduras is not a simple process. However, the government is proactive in protecting the US from foreign organisms and bioterrorism. Importing the best coffee from Honduras as demand for coffee continues to grow may still be wise.

Government Entities Involved in Coffee Importation

The regulations a coffee importer needs to be aware of usually depend on the form the coffee takes. Since coffee beans are actually the seeds of a coffee cherry, it’s important to know the whole coffee fruit can’t be imported. The risk of bringing along pests that eat the fruit is too great.

The Department of Agriculture often presents hurdles for aspiring coffee importers. Also, the fact that we ingest coffee causes regulations from the Food and Drug Administration to apply to coffee as well. Registration with the FDA is required for organizations that import roasted or green coffee beans. Customs and Border Patrol is the third player in the coffee-import game.

Does Importing Coffee from Honduras Require a License?

There is no license specific to importing coffee. It’s not like alcohol or tobacco, where additional restrictions apply in trade and sale situations. However, there are other requirements to meet preemptively to ensure a smooth importation experience.

Bear in mind that the country from which you’re importing coffee will have its own set of regulations. You may need an export license from Honduras if your organization or your in-country partners don’t have one. Finding a licensed coffee exporter in Honduras or making other arrangements may be necessary.

US Requirements for Importing Coffee

Per, the following documents and entities may be required before leaving a foreign port:

  • A commercial invoice with the price and tariff classification
  • A Bill of Lading
  • A CBP entry form (within 15 days of scheduled arrival)
  • Each product to be labeled with the Country of Origin in English
  • A Certificate of Origin
  • Two days before departure, Importer Security Filing(s) are required
  • A customs bond

Repeat Shipments – An Alternative to Importing Coffee from Honduras

The number of requirements needed to import coffee from Honduras can be daunting. To register and prepare paperwork in Honduras and the US is no small feat. Likewise, it can require free capital to insure the goods and for a smooth importation process. Importing in quantities large enough to fill a container, to cut costs, is challenging. The added pressure of quickly developing the coffee into a product that sells regularly, to cover shipping expenses, can be intense. 

However, since consumers are paying more attention to the origins and treatment of their coffee, ensuring a direct link in Honduras is often worthwhile. Young coffee drinkers are picky about their coffee’s origin and treatment, since they came of age around the height of fake and dangerous products. Pesticides, hormones and GMO’s, begone! Older consumers are becoming increasingly wary too. Ethical supply chains and fair treatment of labor are other positive aspects consumers are prioritizing. Direct trade and fair trade designations matter. A growing number of Americans will pay extra to ensure that they aren’t supporting a predatory international business chain.

Coffee that Avoids Importation Hassles

Providing coffee lovers and discerning customers with coffee products that meet their many demands may seem to point to taking on importation responsibilities. When customers are concerned about sourcing, sustainability, taste and pricing all at once, selling to them can seem overwhelming. Luckily, overwhelmed or confused aspiring coffee importers can find relief from bureaucratic and financial hurdles. The many benefits of importing coffee can still be accessed without taking on direct importation responsibilities. 

At Subida Coffee Co. we deliver coffee that checks all the boxes most consumers want nowadays. Best of all, Subida offers a discounted subscription that further cuts costs. Whether you have a coffee shop, coffee stall, grocery store or restaurant, customers can enjoy delectable single-origin coffee at reasonable prices. 

Subida lacks the ethical or environmental infringements causing conscientious coffee lovers to balk. Subida grows its coffee on a 120-acre agricultural project outside of Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras. The coffee is processed there too, qualifying it for single-origin status.

Beyond ethical, the proceeds from Subida’s coffee sales fund the high school education of teenagers. On the site where the coffee is grown, students learn about agriculture, aquaculture and business principles. Many succeed in finishing high school when their life situation would not otherwise allow them to graduate. They also receive moral development. The opportunity to witness international trade and be a part of it from their small community changes young lives. Investing in a subscription to Subida’s medium and dark roasts enables sellers to offer delicious coffee grown sustainably, ethically and for a great cause. In Honduras, Copan coffee is known for the altitude and chocolate notes.

The coffee of Subida Coffee Co. is grown by the team at the Moses Project, a 120-acre commercial farm and agriculture training center in a small community outside of Santa Rosa de Copán.
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