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Peru

Why Peru's Coffee Growers Can't Make Ends Meet

Peruvian coffee farmers desperately need help — from both the public and private sectors — to improve quality and bring down production costs.

Coffee picker near Quillabamba, Peru
Coffee picker near Quillabamba, Peru
Paulo Yvan Almeida*

-Analysis-

LIMA — For most of the approximately 220,000 families in Peru who grow and sell coffee beans for a living, things are going from bad to worse, and for a simple reason. Unlike for farmers in Brazil, Colombia or Vietnam, in Peru, coffee is no longer profitable.

The international price of conventional coffee hovers around $100 a quintal. But in Peru, it costs more than that (approximately $120) to produce that amount. Why? For starters, Peruvian cultivators produce less per acre than their peers in Brazil or Vietnam.

In those countries, farmers tend to have more land at their disposal, plus more advanced technology for the production and post-harvest phases. On top of that, the fertilizers and other chemical products needed for coffee farming are subsidized.

Numbers provided by the National Agricultural Census (CENAGRO) show that 95% of Peruvian coffee farmers have less than five hectares, which is not enough to produce any significant amount. Per hectare productivity is also a problem. The average productivity rate nationwide is below 15 quintals (840 kilograms) per hectare. Brazil's is twice that.

Peruvian coffee beans — Photo: Annerella

To improve the situation, farmers first need to produce more coffee in less space. That will require improvements in both crop management (sowing, fertilization, plant defenses and adequate pruning) and at the post-harvest phase (pulping, fermentation, washing and drying of grains). These kinds of skills and techniques can be shared and taught, through training sessions, for example, and in some places, farmers have already made strides: In production zones like Jaén or Moyobamba, growers are producing more than 50 quintals a hectare.

The higher the quality, the more markets will pay.

Another alternative for Peruvian cultivators is to produce specialty coffees, where the priority is cup quality. The higher the quality, the more markets will pay. A quintal of coffee with a cup quality superior to 88 points can reach around $1,000. Again, the key is in the rigorous approach and dosed application of efficient, technological and environmentally friendly farming inputs.

Producing significant quantities of quality coffee is very much a possibility, but for that to happen, the government, private sector, society and sector organizations need to lend a hand by sharing know-how and technology so that small and mid-sized farmers can adopt better farming practices and become more competitive.

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Geopolitics

AMLO Power Grab: Mexico's Electoral Reform Would Make Machiavelli Proud

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, aka AMLO, says his plans to reform the electoral system are a way to save taxpayer money. A closer look tells a different story.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of Mexico votes

Luis Rubio

OpEd-

MEXICO CITY — For supporters of Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) the goal is clear: to keep power beyond the 2024 general election, at any price. Finally, the engineers of the much-touted Fourth Transformation, ALMO's 2018 campaign promise to do away with the privileged abuses that have plagued Mexican politics for decades, are showing their colors.

Current electoral laws date back to the 1990s, when unending electoral disputes were a constant of every voting round and impeded effective governance in numerous states and districts. The National Electoral Institute (INE) and its predecessor, the IFE, were created to solve once and for all those endemic disputes.

Their promoters hoped Mexico could expect a more honest future, with the electoral question resolved. The 2006 presidential elections, which included AMLO as a recalcitrant loser, showed this was hoping for too much. That election is also, remotely, at the source of the president's new electoral initiative.

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