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*


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.

*The author serves as regional director for the international chemical company Yara South Pacific.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!