SCRATCHING THE SURFACE OF BRAZILIAN COFFEE PRODUCTION:
The giant of the coffee world produces approximately 3000000 kg of coffee per year. That is around 30% of the worlds coffee production. Low altitudes and flat landscape allow producers to use machinery instead of slow and costly hand picking.
This kind of harvesting starts when approximately 75% of the cherries are ripe. The machine goes through a line of trees knocking the cherries into collection units. Mechanical harvesting can be done also by hand held strippers. After this coffee cherry is sorted based on the ripeness, defects are removed and the separated lots move to processing. This is an effective method is made possible by the climate and topography helping uniform maturation of the cherries.
These practises are the foundation for the high volume and efficiency of the country’s coffee production. After having access to the necessary technology, the whole process is very labor and cost efficient, making Brazilian coffees fairly low priced. When it comes down to coffee quality, the amount of defects and lot uniformity is still difficult to control. This further drops the prices that a Brazilian farmer receives. A Brazilian small farmer, who is dependant on a third party for the processing, usually ends up selling his/her harvest as unsorted cherry.
However, for a capable and equipped producer the system makes it possible to focus on careful post sorting and lot separation thus creating way to price the coffee by quality.
In many origins, with more challenging landscape, only hand picking and manual sorting are possible. This raises the need for outside labor as well as costs and significantly slows down the harvesting process. Hand picking is still the most common way of harvesting coffee — and these coffees are nevertheless under the pressure of commercial market prices based on the predicted annual crop volumes of the giant producing countries.
SCRATCHING THE SURFACE OF NICARAGUAN COFFEE PRODUCTION:
Nicaragua is the 12th biggest coffee producing countries in the world with more than 40.000 families relying on coffee as a livelihood. Coffee is the primary export of the country creating over 300 000 jobs and generating around 500 million dollars annually.
The political turmoil, war and civil unrests that the country has been going through since the 1979 topped with the natural disaster of hurricane Mitch in 1998, destroying much of the infrastructure and displacing tens of thousands of farmers and workers have kept the coffee industry struggling. The farmers lack trust in the government as well as financing.
95% of the coffee in Nicaragua is produced by small and micro farmers and harvested manually. Much of the Nicaraguan coffee is naturally shade grown and organic as a result of the lush flora and lack of money to buy fertilisers or pesticides. Still the producers are under the influence of commercial market prices that have been record low on the past years. There’s also a lack of workforce that the farmers need. Everything mentioned before leads to people selling their coffees as cheap cash crop to intermediaries or simply abandoning the whole trade.
In Nicaragua our we have partnered up with Caravela which is a green coffee trading company specialised in transparent trade. Their operating model makes it possible for us to source incredible micro-lots from single farmers, but also volume lots that farmer communities put together. Caravela operates at the origin employing local agronomists and q-graders and educating farmers to ensure the quality of each lot regardless of the cup score. These operations offer a significant advantage for the producer who don’t have access to education and support otherwise.