Stories are swirling this year about one of the unforunate side effects of high prices — coffee is being stolen. And it is not just coffee that is getting lost at origin — lives are being lost, too. In El Salvador, theives recently stole coffee grown by a CRS partner cooperative and killed four security guards in the process — all of them left behind families. The story is awful but not uncommon.
The theft of coffee is a perennial concern in the coffeelands. Even when prices are not as high as they have been this year, cooperatives always put their coffee under lock and key, and often also under the watchful eye of an armed guard.
As prices rise, and with them the incentive for coffee theft, how should communities respond? Is the answer more security? More guns guarding our coffee? It is the most trusted approach here in Central America. And while it may deter, it may also mean that next time more lives will be lost.