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346. Coffee rust: Renovation

Long before and quite apart from the coffee rust outbreak in Central America, I proposed a presentation for this year’s SCAA Expo on what we have been calling “the productivity gap” — the difference between what smallholder farmers CAN produce and what they actually DO produce.  The productivity gap is big, and its effect on smallholder income is significant.  A leading cause is the advanced age of the region’s coffee plantations.  The coffeelands in Central America are filled with semi-productive plants that look something like this:

 

In order for smallholder farmers to be able to consistently generate the kinds of yields they need to turn a profit, their coffee should look more like this.

 

Unfortunately, thanks to coffee rust, the coffeelands in Central America are littered with plants that look more like this:

Central America desperately needed to renovate its coffee fields on a massive scale even before the current coffee rust crisis.  The bad news is that now the need for renovation is even bigger, more urgent.  The estimates I have seen suggest that it will cost $800 million to $1 billion to renovate the region’s coffee farms on the scale that is required.

The good news, if you can call it that, is that now there is no denying the need for renovation, and there is a greater likelihood farmers will get the funding they needed anyway.

In the end, the coffee rust discussion has may have superseded the issue of the productivity gap.  (Ironically, my presentation on the productivity gap is scheduled opposite a panel discussion on coffee rust on Friday morning.)  Still, my presentation may be helpful in framing the issue of smallholder productivity and profitability as we prepare for region-wide renovation in Central America.  It is based on data we collected and work we did to boost smallholder productivity in Mexico and Central America between 2008 and 2011 as part of our CAFE Livelihoods project.  For anyone interested in the topic who can’t make my presentation (or will be next door participating in the coffee rust discussion, where I would be if I weren’t otherwise engaged), here is a sneak preview of what I will present.

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Bean Counting: Smallholder Productivity and Profitability is scheduled for Friday, 12 April 2013 at 10:30 am in room 251.

Leaf Rust: Testing our Resiliency as an Industry is scheduled for the same time slot in room 252A.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

  • jose mario monsalve s. says:

    SUS GRAFICAS MUY BONITAS, PERO ES DE MAS IMPACTO VER LA REALIDAD DEL CAFETO EN SUS DIFERENTES ETAPAS DE LA ROYA.
    SEGUN NUESTRA EXPERIENCIA LA UNICA FORMA DE CONTRARRESTAR EL EFECTO DE ESTA PLAGA ES SEMBRANDO VARIEDADES RESISTENTES A ESTA ENFERMEDAD.

    CONSTRUIMOS PAZ CULTIVAMOS EL MEJOR CAFE DEL MUNDO

  • TJ Semanchin says:

    This is an excellent overview of what I feel is a massive social justice issue – productivity and yields of aging coffee plants and their soil. I feel that a goal of increasing yields to 20 quintales per hectare is a great target, very ambitious and challenging for many producers, but certainly attainable.

    Something to consider in this conversation is highlighting places where organic production is yielding 25, 35 and even 45+ quintales per hectare. I am thinking of the coops I’ve visited in northern Peru and, yes, even in Central America – small farms in Honduras have proven to completely surpass what I thought was possible in terms of organic coffee yields.

    I would love to see resources going to more farmer to farmer exchanges. Oaxacan and Chiapaneco farmers from Mexico could see with their own eyes what is possible and how to achieve it by a trip to visit coops and farmers in Honduras.

    I won’t be at SCAA to attend your presentation, but thanks for posting here.

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