Coffee: Aroma of opportunities
13:19 3 de January de 2022 By Daniel Oiticica
One of El Salvador’s greatest prides, coffee, is an indelible part of the country’s cultural identity. At its peak, El Salvador was among the top five coffee producers worldwide. Successive economic crises and institutional instability strongly affected the Salvadoran coffee sector, which has been gradually losing strength since the 1970.
There were several factors that damaged the sector: rupture of important links in the productive chain, lack of investment in technological research, fluctuations in the prices of raw materials in the international market and new competitors that are more organized to fight the market.
Consequently, production was decreased from 6 million quintals (276 thousand tons) to only 700 thousand (32 thousand tons). With a decrease in production, coffee growers became incapable of making the necessary investments to revitalize the sector. Without production and without work, thousands of rural workers have migrated to urban centers or have left El Salvador in search of new opportunities.
Even so, despite these problems, the quality of Salvadoran coffee is still highly recognized. The Cup of Excellence, an international contest that seeks to locate and identify high quality coffees in producing countries, recognizes the product produced in El Salvador. The Alotepeque region is one of the stars in the production of premium coffee, where coffees by small producers getting high scores come from. In 2020, according to Cup of Excellence, this coffee was the second most expensive and with the highest score in the entire region, from Mexico to Colombia.
Aware of the need to recover the coffee industry in El Salvador, the Government launched the Coffee Rescue Plan, one of the pillars of the recently launched Master Plan for Agricultural Rescue, which will allocate 637 million dollars to the sector. Out of these, 250 million will be destined to restructuring farmers’ debts; 377.5 million for the renovation of 50 thousand blocks (equivalent to 35.2 thousand hectares); 6 million for the creation of the new Coffee Institute and, finally, 4 million for technical assistance and follow-up to the rehabilitation area.
The first step is the reengineering of the producers’ debts. In this sense, the effective participation of the Government is key, reprogramming terms and interest rates to allow the resumption of investments to increase production.
Next, the process of recovery of coffee plantations begins. The Government is already making deals with the private sector for technical assistance to the Salvadoran coffee industry. At the same time, it is creating a Research Institute to make high yielding genetic material available to farmers.
From an economic point of view, the recovery of the coffee industry is a key element for the generation of employment in the agricultural sector. Currently, it is estimated that the coffee sector generates 228,665 direct and 679,810 indirect jobs. With the investment and execution of the Transformation and Sustainable Coffee Plan, they expect to increase by 99,000 direct jobs and close to 2 million indirect jobs in the countryside and specifically in the six coffee growing mountain ranges of the country. In addition, the Government will promote a renewal in rural work, attracting young people and women.
All this will happen, of course, while respecting and valuing the sustainability of the environment, with the adoption of goals for carbon capture, conservation of biodiversity and aquifers, in addition to increasing the producer’s income through the supply of environmental services.