Feb 242011

Mexico is the world’s seventh largest coffee producer and one of the leading suppliers of organic, shade-grown coffee. The nation’s 480,000 coffee growers, most working small parcels of land less than 5 hectares (12 acres) in size, are concentrated in Chiapas, Veracruz and Oaxaca, and produce 268,000 metric tons a year. While Mexican coffee consumption per person is rising, 62% of the harvest is exported, bringing in $400 million annually.

This year’s crop escaped the deep freeze in late January and early February that decimated corn, tomatoes, bell peppers and other crops in northern Mexico, but unseasonal rains and cold weather in coffee-growing regions of southern and eastern Mexico have reduced coffee yields and mean that this season’s crop is also ripening unevenly. Some growers are worried that this could be the worst coffee harvest in almost 20 years.

Mexico's exports: coffee

Coffee, one of Mexico's most important agricultural exports

With fewer berries on each plant, the potential earnings for coffee-pickers are poor, since it takes longer to fill each basket with ripe berries. Some experienced coffee pickers are looking for alternative employment hoping for better pay. According to growers, the less experienced pickers remaining on the job are causing more damage to the bushes than normal, because they employ a hand picking method known as “ordeñando” (milking) in which they run their hands rapidly along a branch, stripping away the leaves as well as the beans. The problem for growers is that this technique reduces the following year’s crop.

The 2010-2011 harvest season began in October. Government officials are still estimating a harvest of 4.4 million 60-kg sacks, which would be a total of about 264,000 metric tons. However, Agroindustrias Unidas de México, Mexico’s largest coffee exporter, believes that 3.5 million sacks will be nearer the truth. If the exporter is correct, the current harvest would be only marginally better than Mexico’s 1992-1993 harvest which was the lowest in the past twenty years.

The only silver lining in this cloud is that coffee prices on international markets are high and rising, mainly due to problems in Colombia, so Mexican growers have a good incentive to pick every single ripe berry they can find.

  4 Responses to “Mexico’s coffee harvest may not meet expectations this year”

  1. This seems like the growers are being short-sighted. If the best pickers are leaving because they can’t make enough money, and the poor pickers damage the plants and reduce yields in the future, then pay the best pickers more. A little more labor cost now will protect their investment (land, plants, and time to produce fruit) better over the long term. and if prices elsewhere are high, too, then the growers can afford to pay a little more for the best pickers.

  2. I will have to disagree with this articles stating that this is going to be one of the worst havests in 20 years. My husband and I have over 25 acres or land in the state of Oaxaca Mexico, and this is actually one of the best years for the havest. Not to mention that the coffee is at 60 pesos per kilo, which is an all time high! A lot of my family members are taking pasture land and turning it into coffee producing fields once again. My husband and I actually harvest a few times so that we are picking all berries off the plants at their peak ripeness. Coffee pickers are not paid an hourly wage per say. They are paid per kilo picked. These depatments in Mexico are only guessing at how many kilos are going to be picked. Our plants are dueing great, which we didn’t expect because we had an amazing outcome for last years harvest (normaly you have one great year followed by a not so great year). I am very pleased by the great coffee our fields yield! Best coffee in the world! Totally organic too!

  3. That is great news! Thanks for taking the time to improve our understanding of coffee-farming in Mexico. We wish you and your family members continued success in the future. We hope you will continue to enjoy reading Geo-Mexico.com and help us improve our short posts about Mexico’s geography. Thanks again, Tony / Rick

  4. interesting insight. Perhaps by bringing new technology in how they harvest the crop, could produce a better crop the follow year. Educating them on the importance of caring for the plant that produces jobs, feeds their family. etc


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