Harvest 2017/2018: 10 things you need to know


Farmers are preparing for the annual coffee harvest season. This year has been challenging — many farmers faced multiple plagues as a result of torrential rain and suffered the disasters of hurricane Nate. Nevertheless, as most resilient people do, they fought back and now are getting ready for another exciting season. They have started painting their machines, cleaned up the drying beds and hired peons for the cherry picking process. Here are 10 things you need to know:

  • Definition: Harvest is the season for gathering agricultural crops, in this case, by picking cherries and processing them.
  • Production Estimates (2018): Costa Rica provides less than 1% of the world’s coffee consumption. Production declined by 17.5% (1,347,000 60 kilogram bags) in 2016/2017 but this year, production is expected to increase by 15% (1,550,000 60 kilogram bags).
  • Number of farmers: There were 55,247 farmers in 2005/2006, but that number is now at 45,445 in 2016/17. This is mostly due to the unsustainable income and uncertainty around market prices within the coffee industry.
  • Rise of Mirco-mills: Although the total number of coffee farmers has fallen over the years, there has been a sharp rise in the number of micro-mills from 113 to 239 during the same time. Micro-mill is a small-scale producer (or a place; usually farm-specific) where coffee cherries are de-pulped, dried and prepared to be roast-ready as green beans. It is a movement away from processing in large cooperative mills or submitting the coffee cherries in its fruit form in order to gain more control over their coffee (and earn higher income).
Typical processing mills
  • Earning for pickers: An important concern in the coffee industry is the wage earned by peons. In most coffee producing countries, pickers earn $1–2/day, which is lower than most minimum wage standards. In Costa Rica, the government has enforced stricter laws which means pickers earn $2-$2.5/cajuela (13 kg). A really good picker will manage to pick around 20 cajuelas/day, allowing them to earn around $40–50/day.
  • Almuerzo campesino: During the harvest season, everyone heads to the farms early in the morning, and that means lunch is usually hosted on the farms, in between coffee plants. The lunch would be wrapped in banana leaves, and include rice, mashed beans, an egg cake, a piece of meat, a piece of cheese and fried plantains. All of this would be in between two tortillas, and with a side of a warm drink, such as agua dulce.
Almuerzo Campesino de Costa Rica
  • Canastas: Although coffee picking from images looks like a ‘fun’ and ‘easy’ activity, it is actually a strenuous activity (we had our interns try picking some, and they had a pretty tough time with 3–4 baskets). Coffee is usually collected in baskets called canastas which can carry around 13 kg. These baskets are usually tied around the waists of the farmers, as they move from one plant to another.
  • The Campesino song:
The Campesino Song
  • Total worth: The work that is done by farmers during the harvest season and throughout the year, means that they contribute towards 70% of the total production in the coffee production (the rest being done by roasters and coffee shops).
  • Income: For the work of managing peons, running mills, processing coffee and ensuring its quality, farmers still earn 8% of the total sales revenue.

As you enjoy your favorite cup of Bean Voyage Coffee, we hope you will consider the significance of the next few months in the lives of coffee producers and especially women coffee producers.

Finally, celebrate this Thanksgiving by purchasing your coffee directly from women coffee producers: beanvoyage.com/thanks

Sources:

  1. https://gain.fas.usda.gov/Recent%20GAIN%20Publications/Coffee%20Annual_San%20Jose_Costa%20Rica_5-22-2017.pdf
  2. https://dailycoffeenews.com/2013/07/17/farmworkers-left-behind-the-human-cost-of-coffee-production/


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