Coffee Industry Looks to Future

November 17, 2006

Approximately 500 coffee industry leaders came to San José this week for the 20th annual International Coffee Week (SINTERCAFÉ) to look at the future of the industry.

The event, which is considered the most important coffee industry event in Costa Rica, brought together producers large and small, as well as coffee certifiers, buyers and industry experts.

Attendees worked together in workshops and were offered a wide range of speakers who talked about sustainability and quality in the coffee industry.

“Costa Rica is working with clear concepts of sustainability, environmental friendliness, and social and economic development,” said Ramon Ulate, the Costa Rican Coffee Institute (ICAFE) board president.

Ulate said though coffee exports and production have been lagging in Costa Rica this year, the industry is adapting to become a more quality-oriented, valueadded sector with niche markets.

Costa Rica is a leading country in the push to certify coffee and other farms for their quality and sustainability. The Rainforest Alliance says Costa Rica has more certified hectares under production than any other country in the world, despite its small size.

ICAFE reports that the country’s $231 million coffee export industry – more than half of which goes to the United States – has seen a 3% drop this year.

Ulate said the slump for Costa Rica’s third biggest agricultural export is the result of the late 1990s world coffee price crisis, caused by massive producers like Vietnam saturating the market. Costa Rica is still recovering from that crisis, according to Ulate.

The daily La Nación reported that the industry has been struggling this year to find enough workers for the harvest. Irregular rains have caused overlaps in different harvest sectors that has meant a need for more workers at one time.

The coffee harvest season, which lasts from August to April, employs some 200,000 workers.

 

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