The leaf rust crisis of 2012 affected nearly 600,000 thousand acres of Central American coffee farmland. Nearly 300,000 farmers need to replant coffee because of it. But many of them are at risk of using inferior seedlings, susceptible varieties, or seeds that are poorly adapted to their location—meaning they will continue to be vulnerable to future disease outbreaks.
Every coffee plant a farmer puts in the ground is an investment in his or her future. The life of a coffee tree is 20-30 years. If a farmer makes a poor decision on variety, the cumulative loss can be huge. Historically, farmers have made that investment blindly or with only minimal guidance, relying on hearsay from neighbors or outdated information from institutions. Home gardeners in the U.S. can order vegetable catalogs that include germination times, expected yield, and recommended fertilization. Unbelievably, coffee farmers—who earn their livelihoods from the decisions they make about which coffees to plant—don’t have a similar resource. The lack of a comprehensive, up-to-date coffee catalog puts farmers at risk.
The coffee industry, through World Coffee Research, with support from USAID and PROMECAFE, wants to change that. We are creating the first-ever catalog of coffee varieties for Central America, Peru and the Caribbean. The Variety Intelligence project gathers in one place all the existing information on varieties in the region. The catalog will include information on: yield, vigor, disease/insect resistance, performance at altitude and under shade/sun, cup quality, and where those varieties are available.
Information is power. The Variety Intelligence project brings urgently needed information to coffee farmers to help them decide which coffee is best for their situation. Planting the right varietals will help ensure they produce more and better coffee, which in turn will create stable livelihoods through coffee farming.
The catalog will be distributed to tens of thousands of coffee farmers through national coffee institutions, exporters, cooperatives and nurseries that supply coffee plants and seeds. The results of better planting decisions ripple outward. Since coffee producers who make good planting decisions will be at much less risk of threats from disease or pests, the risk to coffee importers and roasters will also be less. In the wake of the 2012 leaf rust crisis, coffee buyers had to scramble to meet demand.
Choosing the right varietal also has consequences for quality in the cup. Farmers will be more likely to plant varieties that are well adapted to their environments when given good information about this essential factor. The famed Geisha variety was planted around Central America for 40 years without notice before anyone realized it could be exquisite in the right environment.
Readers can help by
World Coffee Research works openly so that everyone in the value chain has an opportunity to benefit from our research and to contribute to ensuring the supply of quality coffees continues into the future.
You can support the Variety Intelligence project and dozens of other research projects to benefit coffee producers and industry by giving a one-time or recurring donation to World Coffee Research. Roasters and importers can also join our Check-Off program. Check-Off allows roasters to donate half a cent for every pound of Arabica purchased through supporting importers. Importers tally the contribution and add it to the roaster’s invoice as a cost of doing business. Importers then submit funds to World Coffee Research on the roaster’s behalf.
Sign up for the Check Off program at: worldcoffeeresearch.org/make-a-difference-roasters-can-check-off
Current supporting importers are:
Atlantic Specialty Coffee, Inc., Atlas Coffee Importers, LLC, Café Imports, Caravela Coffee, Crop to Cup, Falcon Coffees, Hacienda La Minita, InterAmerican Coffee, OLAM America, Paragon Coffee Trading Company, RGC Coffee, Royal Coffee Importers, Sustainable Harvest Specialty Coffee Importers, Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee Company, Inc., The Coffee Source, Trabocca, Volcafe Specialty Coffee.
World Coffee Reasearch is a 501(c)5 non-profit. Donations from the coffee industry are tax deductible.
Central America, Peru, and the Carribean
Provide more than 100,000 farmers with access to information that will allow them to make better-informed decisions about the coffees they plant on their farms, resulting in increased quality and 10-15% increased volume of coffee on farms that use the tool to make their replanting decisions.