Coffee belongs to the botanical family Rubiaceae. There are at least 25 species of the genus Coffea, all indigenous to Africa, and some islands in the Indian Ocean. Today coffee is cultivated in some eighty countries in South and Central America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia, generally in areas lying between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. The two biggest producers by far are Brazil and Colombia, followed by Indonesia, Vietnam and Mexico.
The coffee tree is a tropical evergreen shrub with two beans per fruit, which when ripe resemble a red cherry. The two most commercially important species grown are Coffea canephora (robustas) and Coffea arabica (arabicas). The latter, which accounts for 70% of the world production, grows at higher altitudes, requires less rain, and its beans have a lower caffeine content than that of robustas. Arabica coffee is highly susceptible to pests and diseases; therefore resistance is a major goal of plant breeding programs. It is grown throughout Latin America, in Central and East Africa, in India and to some extent in Indonesia. Robusta coffee is grown in West and Central Africa, throughout Southeast Asia and in Brazil. Two other species, which are grown on a much smaller scale are Coffea liberica (Liberica coffee), grown in Malaysia and in West Africa, and Coffea dewevrei (Excelsa coffee).
After oil, coffee is the most important traded commodity in the world, and is the primary export of many developing countries. More than two thirds of current world coffee production is exported from Latin America and the Caribbean, with much of the rest coming from African and Asian producers. However, most coffee is consumed in the developed world; the United States and the European Community together import two out of every three bags of coffee produced in the world.
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