March 27, 2020
3 Minute Read
Juan Antonio Gómez
Country Manager Nicaragua
The Nicaragua harvest started on the right track in October 2019 when our buying station located in La Concordia, Jinotega opened its doors to coffee growers delivering their initial lots of wet parchment. By the end of December, our team had dried around 211,780 kg of parchment coffee, and the first container set sail to Australia before New Year’s Eve.
Over the first three weeks of 2020, however, the scenario changed quickly due to weather-related complications. First, we noticed a significant decrease in volume as compared to the same point last year, and well below what we originally projected. This shortfall stemmed from a lack of rain combined with temperature stress that affected coffee trees during the second half of 2019 and had significant consequences to the cherry development phase which took place between June and September 2019 especially in Nueva Segovia. During the coffee cycle, plants need on average 1,400 millimeters of rain. However, Jinotega recorded 1,800 millimeters vs 950 in Nueva Segovia in 2019. In this phase, coffee cherries require of a significant amount of water to develop properly and for beans to fill in the cherry. This, however, caused a higher rate of empty coffee beans with lower density, quakers, lower quality grades and higher volumes of off-grades for producers; consequently, triggering a significant shortage of the higher quality grades (AA and above).
These were the effects on the plant due to lack of water and temperature effects:
Immature beans affected by drought, water stress, rust disease, and lack of fertilization
Shrunk beans affected by drought conditions and lack of fertilization
Compounding this, unexpected heavy rains during the peak harvest period in January 2020 caused cherries to fall. Overripe coffee cherries that didn’t fall were prone to natural fermentation, increasing possibility of ferment or mold in the cup. By the fourth week of January, the weather whiplash continued as the ripe cherries experienced higher exposure to sunlight and heat, causing the cherries to dry and split on the trees, affecting again not only yields but overall quality and via susceptibility to mold and outside bacteria. We estimate that on average coffee farmers in Nicaragua lost 25% to 30% of their harvest, with Jinotega being the most affected region.
Rain effect after the 4th week of January.
We’re also seeing a higher incidence of coffee berry borer (CBB) in coffees produced in Mozonte and Dipilto, areas where this threat used to be rare. Despite PECA team efforts on sharing best practices to control this pest, producers didn’t expect it and didn’t act on time. This demonstrated the importance of implementing more preventive methods and practices rather than reactive ones.
On top of the issues dealt by Mother Nature, the labor force has been limited this harvest. The harvest peak in Jinotega occurred at the same time as the harvest peak in Madriz and farms located in areas less than 1200 m.a.s.l, leading to increased competition for farm workers. Labor constraints have worsened since 2018 when the country faced political turmoil as well as lack of financing, affecting producers’ ability to access credit for production.
Throughout the harvest, we have closely monitored wet parchment deliveries and purchases. We were forced to close our purchasing station in La Concordia, Jinotega in the 2nd week of March, as most of the coffee delivered cupped below RTB grade. We’re still receiving coffee at La Estrella drying station in Nueva Segovia until the first week of April while we keep on working at full speed on milling and shipments.
It has been a challenging harvest for both producers and our team in Nicaragua; we’ve seen considerable time and investment lost due to climatic factors and the country’s political instability, elements that are beyond our control. Despite the challenges faced this harvest, we will continue working together with Nicaraguan coffee producers to continue improving the quality of their coffee. We encourage you, our partners, to continue supporting Nicaragua and building upon the considerable gains in quality and community we’re proud to have witnessed over the last six years.
Juan Antonio Gómez
He is a Mechanical Engineer with Masters' degree in Water Engineering, Renewable Energies and Business Management. He has been working with Caravela for the last 15 months, starting off as Nicaragua’s Operational Director and now he is the Country Manager. Juan Antonio previously worked carrying out operational activities in the manufacturing, food, energy, and government sectors. He is passionate about continued learning and self-improvement, as well as creating a respectful working environment.