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Meso-American Producer Survey: The Pandemic Will Leave Long-Lasting Scars



June 10, 2020


 3 Minute Read

Alejandro Cadena | Alieth Polo
Co-Founder & CEO and Regional PECA and Sustainability Director
After understanding the main concerns of South American coffee growers as the new harvest commenced in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, we now shift our attention to Central American and Mexican coffee producers.
 
During the last week of May 2020, our PECA team conducted a phone survey of 356 coffee growers¹ from El Salvador, Guatemala Mexico and Nicaragua, all of whom sold coffee to us during the 2020 harvest.  The objective of the survey was to understand how coffee growers in these four countries are coping with the pandemic, as well as hear their views about the results of the 2020 crop and their current perspective for next year’s harvest.
 
Below you can observe the results of the survey:

Covid-19 Takes Its Toll
 
While opinions regarding the 2020 harvest and how the pandemic is affecting them vary widely by country, there is an overwhelming consensus amongst growers that the pandemic will affect them in one way or another: 100% in Mexico, 97% in Nicaragua, 95% in El Salvador and 84% in Guatemala.  Guatemalan and Mexican coffee growers seem to be the most optimistic – thanks primarily to the high prices received in the 2020 harvest, while El Salvadoran and Nicaraguan coffee growers are the most pessimistic – which were also the participants that considered that the 2020 harvest was not very good for them due to climate issues and low prices.
 
Among the issues affecting them as a consequence of the pandemic, Nicaraguan farmers – which are also the ones with the biggest average farm size, are mostly concerned about the lack of financing, which is mostly due to the political and economic crisis the country has been facing since April 2018.  Salvadorian and Mexican farmers, the ones with the lowest average farm sizes and therefore the ones with the lowest incomes, are mostly concerned about lack of money, with 35% and 44% of participants mentioning that as a concern.  Guatemalan farmers are the ones that mentioned a higher concern about movement restrictions affecting them, with 57% of them responding that.  This is probably as a result of the tight curfews imposed by the Guatemalan government since mid-March, which are heavily affecting the supply of essential goods, as coffee farms in Guatemala tend to be remotely located from any major city.  In contrast with their South American peers, lack of labor is not a top concern amongst Mexican and Central American producers, most likely because the new harvest is still at least 6 months away.
 
How Are Growers Handling the Pandemic?
 
The good news is that the vast majority of coffee growers reported few COVID-19 cases in their communities, with Mexican farmers thankfully reporting zero infections in their communities.  In addition, most coffee growers report that they and their families are taking precautions to reduce the risk of infections.  In Mexico, the country that has the highest number of active cases of the four countries included in this survey, 100% of the coffee growers surveyed reported opting to staying home, a measure that seems to be working given the inexistence of cases in their communities.  Meanwhile in Nicaragua, where the government has not imposed any lockdown measures or promoted social distancing, and where 14% of coffee growers reported cases in their communities, the second highest percentage after El Salvador, is the country where coffee growers reported the lowest use of face masks and of staying home.
 
As we write these lines, the World Health Organization has warned that COVID-19 is now rapidly expanding in Latin America despite many countries in the region enforcing tight lockdowns.  Additionally, the World Bank has forecast that as many as 100 million people in emerging economies will be tipped into extreme poverty this year as shutdowns to tackle the disease are taking an increasing economic toll on these fragile economies.  Economic activity in Latin America and the Caribbean is forecast by the Bank to contract by 7.2% this year, suffering the biggest drop of all emerging economies².
 
It is clear that COVID-19 will leave long-lasting scars on coffee farmers in Latin America (as well as farmers in other coffee producing countries), many who were already dealing with low coffee prices and adverse weather patterns.  The consequences that it will have on quality and farm productivity is potentially devastating for the specialty coffee industry.  If there was ever a time to support coffee growers by paying good prices and forging long-term relationships, this is it!
 
 
 

¹ SURVEY INFORMATION:

The survey was conducted telephonically by our PECA team from May 22 to May 29, 2020 and was answered by a total of 356 coffee growers, representing 65% of the growers that delivered coffee to us in the 2020 harvest.
  • El Salvador: 75 growers from Chalatenango and Sonsonate with an average farm size of 6.2 ha.
  • Guatemala: 90 growers from Chimaltenango, Chiquimula, El Progreso, Guatemala, Huehuetenango, Quetzaltenango, San Marcos, Solola and Zacapa, with an average farm size of 12.0 ha.
  • Mexico: 98 growers from Chiapas and Oaxaca with an average farm size of 1.4 ha.
  • Nicaragua: 93 coffee growers from Esteli, Jinotega, Madriz, Matagalpa and Nueva Segovia, with an average farm size of 32 ha.

² https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2020/06/08/covid-19-to-plunge-global-economy-into-worst-recession-since-world-war-ii

Después de entender las principales preocupaciones de productores de café en Suramérica, mientras comienza una nueva cosecha en medio de la Pandemia del COVID-19, ahora movemos nuestra atención a los productores de café en Centroamérica y México.  

Durante la última semana de mayo del 2020, nuestro equipo PECA realizó una encuesta telefónica a 356 productores de café en El Salvador, Guatemala, México y Nicaragua, quienes nos vendieron café durante la reciente cosecha del 2020. El objetivo de esta encuesta fue entender como los productores en estos cuatro países están sobrellevando la pandemia, como también escuchar sus precepciones y opiniones acerca de la cosecha del 2020 y sus perspectivas para la cosecha que viene el otro año.  

Los resultados de la encuesta se muestran a continuación.  

El COVID-19 cobra su precio 

Mientras las opiniones de los productores acerca de la cosecha del 2020 y como la pandemia los ha afectado varían enormemente entre países, la mayoría de los productores reconocen que la pandemia afectará de una manera u otra: 100% en México, 97% en Nicaragua, 95% en EL Salvador y 85 % en Guatemala. Los productores en México y Guatemala parecen ser los más optimistas debido, principalmente a los altos precios que recibieron durante la cosecha del 2020, mientras los productores de café nicaragüenses y salvadoreños fueron los más pesimistas – una bien informada vista de las dificultades que tuvieron en la más reciente cosecha debido a problemas climáticos y bajos precios.

Entre las consecuencias de la pandemia, los productores de café en Nicaragua – quienes también cuentan con grandes fincas en promedio – son los más preocupados por la falta de financiamiento debido a la crisis política y económica que enfrentan desde abril del 2018. Productores salvadoreños y mexicanos, son los de más pequeña escala y, por ende, reciben menores ingresos, están principalmente preocupados por falta de dinero, con 35% y 44% de los encuestados mencionando esa preocupación. Los productores de café de Guatemala, sin embargo, expresaron su ansiedad con respecto al impacto de las restricciones de movimiento, con 57% de los encuestados manifestando esta preocupación como su principal. A diferencia de nuestros amigos de Suramérica, la falta de mano de obra no es una preocupación grande para los productores de México y Centroamérica, probablemente debido a que todavía faltan 6 meses para la cosecha.  

¿Como están sobrellevando la pandemia? 

La buena noticia es que la mayoría de los productores de café encuestados reportaron pocos casos de COVID-19 en sus comunidades, con los mexicanos afortunadamente reportando cero casos de contagio en sus comunidades. Además de esto, la mayoría de los productores reportan que ellos y sus familias están tomando las precauciones necesarias para reducir el riesgo de contagioEn México, el país con mayor cantidad de casos de contagio activos de los cuatro países encuestados, 100% de los productores encuestados reportaron que se están quedando en casa, una medida que parece estar funcionado ya que reportan cero casos dentro de sus comunidades. Mientras tanto, en Nicaragua, donde el gobierno no ha impuesto ni aislamiento preventivo ni han promovido el distanciamiento social, 14% de los productores reportaron casos dentro de sus comunidades (el segundo porcentaje más alto después de El Salvador). Estos productores también reportaron menor uso de mascarillas y medidas como quedarse en casa. 

La Organización Mundial de La Salud ha advertido que el COVID-19 se está expandiendo rápidamente en América Latinaa pesar de que muchos países en la región actuaron rápidamente tomando acciones y haciendo fuertes y estrictos cierres. Adicionalmente, el Banco Mundial ha pronosticado que 100 millones de personas de economías emergentes se inclinarán a la pobreza extrema este año ya que los cierres están teniendo una fuerte consecuencia en las economías frágiles. La actividad económica en Latinoamérica y el Caribe esta prevista por el banco a disminuir en un 7.2% este año – la reducción más alta de todas las economías emergentes. ¡El apoyo a productores de café en México y Centroamérica nunca había sido tan importante! 


¹² INFORMACIÓN DE LA ENCUESTA:

  • El Salvador: 75 productores de café de Chalatengo y Sonsonate de fincas con un tamaño promedio de 6.2 hectáreas.
  • Guatemala: 90 productores de café de Chimaltenango, Chiquimula, El Progreso, Guatemala y Huehutenango, Quetzaltenango, San Marcos, Solola y Zacapa de fincas con un tamaño promedio de 12 hectáreas
  • Mexico:  98 productores de café de Chiapas y Oaxaca de fincas con un tamaño promedio de 1.4 hectáreas. 
  • Nicaragua: 93 productores de café de Estelí, Jinotega, Madriz, Matagalpa, y Nueva Segovia de fincas con tamaño promedio de 32 hectáreas. 

² https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2020/06/08/covid-19-to-plunge-global-economy-into-worst-recession-since-world-war-ii

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