Nueva Segovia, Nicaragua normally receives between 1600 and 1800 mm of rain per year. This amount of rain is right on target for the production of high quality coffee. Normally, this rain is evenly distributed between the months of June and November, with a slight bias towards August and September.
In 2014, due to El Niño, we saw very little rain from June to August. This drought resulted in many problems for cattle ranchers and other food producers, as temperatures were very high and lack of rain affected crops and river systems. Even coffee farmers and farms at lower altitudes saw plant mortality due to the lack of rain and high temperatures.
From August onwards we have seen very good levels of rain. In fact, just in October we had close to 30% of the rainfall for the entire year (417 mm). Unfortunately, rainfall was irregular, which undoubtedly has affected the development of coffee cherries.
This late arrival of the rain mostly affected growers located at lower elevations. For growers at higher altitudes like the ones we work with, the main effect of the drought is a late start of the harvest. We also believe that there will be an effect on yields, as some beans will not fully develop. We are being very vigilant and continue to work with growers to identify and manage these risks.
In addition to the early drought, we have also seen lower temperatures all over Central America. For example, in Finca Santa Teresa, located in Dipilto, Nueva Segovia, from November 6 until November 11, 2014, recorded temperatures were around 13° C, which is about 55° F. Compared with previous years, this is between 4 - 9 degrees lower than normal. These lower temperatures can affect the ripening of the cherries, while potentially generating frost damage at farms at the highest elevations.
Fortunately, the producers that we are working with have been doing an excellent job managing their farms. Thanks to the good prices received last year and the pre-financing they secured, they have been able to invest in their farms this year with the goal of continuing to improve their quality and their incomes. To help them mitigate their risks, our team of promotores have been assisting them with know-how and practical solutions that are being implemented at the farms.
We are anxiously awaiting the first lots at Beneficio La Estrella and hope to begin sharing the results of the farmer's hard work and commitment very soon.
Francisco Javier Valle
Virmax Nicaragua has been working with specialty coffee producers in the Nueva Segovia and Jinotega departments of Nicaragua since 2013. We work with coffee producers in Dipilto, La Union, Cerro de la Explosion, San Jose, Nubarrones, El Limon in Nueva Segovia and Las Cuchillas in Jinotega. Virmax Nicaragua S.A. is part of the Caravela Coffee Group.