The biggest obstacles for coffee producers


Thedreaded coffee leaf blight first appeared on coffee plantations in Kenya in the 19th century. From there it spread around the world. Most recently, it was rampant in South and Central America in 2012. Rzi thrives in a temperature range of 17-22℃ at altitudes of 1000 to 2000m above sea level. No protection has been developed against coffee rust, which can infect coffee bushes up to hundreds of metres in a short period of time (a few hours); only plants can be effectively protected (sprays, more resistant varieties). Small farmers usually do not have enough money for these, so they can only wait and hope that their plantation will be spared.


Underneath this lilting Spanish name lies one of the biggest pests of coffee cherries. It's a small beetle native to Africa, boring tunnels into the coffee fruit to lay its eggs. It mainly attacks Arabica varieties. It hates drought and tends to thrive in shady, damp places, which Arabica also likes.


Farmers are concerned about theunpredictable weather, unpredictable rainfall and rising temperatures that accompany our time. The more fragile Arabica, the main variety grown in Brazil, the world's largest producer of coffee and Arabica, is particularly affected by climate change. Arabica likes the cooler climates that higher altitudes provide. Rising temperatures often make cultivation impossible or production less profitable and financially viable for small growers. The IPCC (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) predicts that 10 to 20% of the total area under Arabica cultivation will be lost by 2050.

Farmers, on the other hand, are frightened by unpredictable and heavy rainfall. Producers depend on a good and dry harvest season. Rains during the harvesting season severely complicate the successful harvesting and air and sun drying that family farms benefit from. High humidity adversely affects the quality of coffee cherries, causing them to crack and lose viscosity. The rains cause uneven and irregular flowering in the plantations, hence irregular ripening. It is then very difficult to predict when a good harvest will take place, and it can easily happen that under-ripe or over-ripe cherries make the harvest worthless.


Unfortunately, the price of coffee is unpredictable from year to year, depending on demand. The price may fall rapidly, but costs continue to rise. This becomes a nightmare for many farmers, as they cannot predict well the evolution of the coffee exchange and therefore their costs and returns. If they are a little more confident about the condition and quality of their coffee bushes, and take the risk of possible climate change, they can try to reach the specialty coffee market. Income will increase, but so will investment in terms of resources and effort.

Fairtrade certification for the farm may be the only income guarantee. It guarantees a minimum purchase price and a fairtrade premium. The minimum purchase price is set to cover costs and allow the farming family to live a decent life.


A major problem that does not yet concern the small growers, but which immediately catches the eye of a visitor from elsewhere, is the high consumption of water in washing the grains and their subsequent return to nature. This water contains acids that cannot be recycled, and small family-run coffee farms do not have enough money to recycle it. In its contaminated state, it goes into the river or is discharged into the forest. It destroys soil and plants on a large scale.


As can be seen from the previous lines, small family coffee farms do not have it easy. For a lot of hard work, they have little money for their livelihood and to maintain the plantation. Let us at least support them by buying some coffee from small producers.