COFFEE FROM BEYOND SNOW-CAPPED MOUNTAINS
17 hours over the snow-capped Andes – that’s how long it took me to get from Lima, the capital of Peru, to the nearest coffee plantations by bus. Peru is a big country: by area alone it is almost four times the size of Finland. Having sat through the aforementioned bus trip a few times (the best-scenario travel time was 10 hours), I found myself wondering at the long and arduous journey that coffee beans have to make before ending up in a cargo ship in Lima.
The coffee plantations closest to the harbour are a 10- hour drive away. The route winds through the Andes, rising to a height of 4,800 metres.
Most of the coffee in Peru is produced without modern cultivation methods, and production levels are very low. Traditional cultivation methods are passed down from one generation to the next. The implementation of new knowledge and adoption of modern methods is slow.
Small producers of mainly organic coffee don’t use chemicals to protect their plants from diseases. Without a plant protection program, it is difficult to keep plant diseases under control. In 2014, Coffee Leaf Rust (Hemileia vastatrix) caused severe issues for coffee plantations in South and Central America, and particularly in Peru, where it affected as many as 40% of all coffee plantations. In addition to chemicals, good cultivation practices can be used to dicourage Coffee Leaf Rust.
Coffee Leaf Rust is a fungal disease, which causes a coffee plant to shed its leaves. The disease also hinders the development of coffee berries and inhibits a plant’s productivity.
Last week we wrote about how we are planning to invest more in partnership programmes in coffee production countries. Programmes implemented in collaboration with coffee export companies help coffee farmers improve their income through increased production levels, higher quality produce and well-organized use of resources. Through education in good cultivation practices, coffee farmers can better prepare for issues such as climate change and damage caused by plant diseases such as Coffee Leaf Rust.
Partnership programmes are highly practical operations. The condition of coffee production equipment can be assessed by looking at how many beans get damaged in the process.
On the other side of the various challenges, a bright future awaits. Coffee cultivation in Peru has a lot of potential. Unlike many other coffee producing countries, Peru has plenty of space for expanding coffee plantations. If production is increased, Peruvian coffee will become more readily available and the coffee farmers will see their income improved.
Sunrise over the Santa Rosa coffee plantation in Villa Rica, Peru.
Until now, at Paulig we have not bought much Peruvian coffee. Next, we and our partner aim to find a suitable coffee farming community, so that together we can take steps towards a brighter future for coffee.
With bright coffee greetings,
Coffee facts about Peru:
• The world’s largest producer of organic coffee and the 5th largest producer of Arabica coffee
• Expected harvest for the 2016-2017 harvest season: 4.5 million sacks (á 60 kg)
• Around 150,000 coffee farmers
• Average plantation size: 3 hectares
• Local coffee consumption: 0.65 kg per capita/year