Coffee News: from Seed to Cup

Can The Mexican Coffee Institute Fix a Crisis in Production?

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After 20 years, the Mexican Coffee Institute is being reestablished. And it couldn’t come at a better time. While interest in specialty coffee production grows, Mexico is seeing production levels hit by coffee leaf rust and more.

I went to Cafés Especiales: Compartiendo experiencias e información (“Specialty coffee: Sharing experiences and information”) at the end of last year, where news of the institute’s launch was shared. I spoke with representatives from the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA) and Integral Plan of Attention to Coffee (PIAC).

They shared with me the reasons behind the relaunch – and how they believe it will reshape the Mexican coffee industry.

SEE ALSO: Seed to Cup: 5 Ways Mexican Coffee Is Becoming Specialty

cafes especiales

Cafés Especiales en México.

Coffee Crisis in Mexico

Five years ago, Mexico’s yearly coffee production stood at 4.5 million bags, according to the Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN). But in 2015/2016, that figure had fallen to 2.2 million.

In 2015, GAIN also reported that Chiapas, Veracruz, Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Puebla – where 93% of Mexico’s coffee plantations are – were still hard-hit by coffee leaf rust (la roya). In fact, irregular weather conditions most probably lead to the fungus’ expansion last year.

These falls in production hit producers the hardest. Coffee has always been an unstable industry, known for its “thin months” when families struggle to buy food. Decreases in production point to smaller incomes, longer thin months, and producers turning from coffee farming to other crops and livelihoods.

Yet Mexican coffee consumption is increasing. It now rests at 1.3-1.5 kg per person annually – more than the country is producing. As consumption rises, production needs to go up as well. Mexico needs to not only meet domestic demand, but also to export coffee to other countries’ markets.

roya

Signs of coffee leaf rust on a leaf. Credit: Caffé Pecora

What’s The Solution?

Increasing coffee production is about more than just numbers. Coffee education needs to improve, as does the quality of life for producers. We need better water management, more sustainable practices, and more quality controls. We need a new organisational model.

And that is why the Mexican Coffee Institute is being reestablished. It’s supported by public and private bodies, including SAGARPA and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).

The first Mexican Coffee Institute was created in 1958, but SAGARPA state that only a few decades later its impact was minimal. In the early ‘90s, it closed – seemingly for good. Now, however, hopes are high.

According to Jorge Armando Narváez Narváez, the undersecretary of Agriculture, the relaunching of the organisation will build a stronger coffee sector, one that guarantees productivity in an economic, environmental, and socially sustainable way.

So how will the Mexican Coffee Institute achieve this?

productor chiapas

Lorenzo Enzin picks ripe cherries in Tenejapa, Chiapas, Mexico. Credit: Jesús Salazar

What Are The Aims of The Mexican Coffee Institute?

Vera Espíndola of PIAC talked to me about some of the projects the Mexican Coffee Institute are either working on already or plan to work on in the future, such as technology packages adapted to producers’ needs. These will include resources for improving the nutrition and health of coffee trees.

The body is also coordinating with the National Service of Health, Safety and Agro-Food Quality (SENASICA) for the purpose of running sanitary campaigns to fight coffee diseases. Another aim is to conduct and release research into coffee genetics.

And Vera told me that the Mexican Coffee Institute understands the importance of providing training, both in coffee production and in project management. They are working to assist small producers in getting loans, and in getting certification.

Finally, they also exist to promote domestic consumption, which they hope to see grow year-on-year.

coffee bags

As Mexican coffee consumption grows, so must production. Credit: Jorge Sotomayor

Written by A. Valencia.

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