Unfortunately for the people — and coffee — of Guatemala, the year of superlative rains continues. Newspapers here have reported that more rain fell in the month of August than normally falls in an entire year. This weekend, after weeks of relentless rain, many of the country’s hillsides gave out. Along a particularly tragic 30-mile stretch of the Pan-American highway that cuts through the coffeelands, 30 mudslides were reported. Dozens of lives have been lost and rescue workers are still working to uncover buses and cars buried under tons of earth. The National Coffee Association, Anacafé, has not issued any estimates of coffee losses due to the unusually heavy rains, but our CAFE Livelihoods project partners have been telling us that the rain has brought many cherries off the trees.
This latest tragedy comes just a few months after the eruption of the Pacaya Volcano and the arrival of Tropical Storm Agatha on successive days killed more than 150 people and left tens of thousands homeless. That storm dumped millions of tons of black sand across parts of the coffeelands and the capital, and dropped as much rain on Guatemala as Hurricane Stan did in 2005, only in half the time. It also caused an estimated $100 million in coffee losses.