Coffee to get more expensive, hard to find as COVID-19 decimates production in Colombia

  • Coffee crops in Colombia are flowering now, but the workers needed to pick those crops are affected by stay-at-home orders to battle COVID-19.
  • It is not just coffee. Other fruits like watermelons and blueberries cannot make it to market. They are rotting on the fields or in transit.
  • The lack of manpower could hurt the industry for a long time as many seasonal workers return home to Venezuela.

BOGOTA. That cup of joe that gets you moving in the morning could soon become much more expensive, and maybe even impossible to find, as Covid-19 decimates coffee production in Colombia. 

As the pandemic deepens across Latin America, there are growing fears of widespread crop failures that could limit access to food in a region already struggling to feed people and affect supply chains globally. 

As much as any other crop and due to a bad alignment of timing and how it is produced, coffee could be deeply impacted by the pandemic. Coffee trees flower twice a year, and one of those flowerings is happening right now. The 2019 harvest was the largest in 25 years, according to the National Federation of Coffee Growers, the guild that brings together all coffee growers in the country.

But now, Covid-19 is making picking the coffee beans “a very labor-intensive process that is generally done manually by tens of thousands of pickers” difficult. Colombia went into a full lockdown on March 25

The agricultural sector is exempted from the lockdowns, but the coffee sector has still been severely disrupted. Coffee beans are generally picked by people and many of these people live what amounts to nomadic lives, travelling from one part of the country to the next working in coffee plantations. They often travel hundreds if not thousands of kilometers twice a year to move from one coffee growing region to the next. These migrant workers help growers pick up the fruits and sell them to national and international markets. Those pickers are at the base of the complex and rather long coffee supply chain that ends up in that all-important morning cup.

In Colombia, there are 930,000 hectares of coffee plantations spread across half the rural towns of the country. About 555,000 Colombian families depend directly on coffee farming for their livelihoods. 

“We’ve got a huge challenge and a very large harvest highly concentrated on this month, May and early June,” Roberto Vélez, general manager of the National Federation of Coffee Growers, told a local radio station earlier this month.

According to Vélez, about 5 million coffee sacks (each weighting 60 kilograms) should be collected during the mid-year production, which is now at risk from a couple of factors. The first challenge is a lack of fruit pickers. The second challenge is the transportation and logistics issue created by the stringent shelter-in-place orders that have now been extended until at least May 11.

Not only coffee is at risk

Coffee is not the only product at risk in Colombia right now. Fields of watermelons, blueberries and strawberries are ready to be handpicked but most of the country’s manpower is under full lock down since March 25. Agriculture is exempted and sectors like manufacturing and construction will be exempted under strict bio-safety protocols but the shortage of manpower pose a significant hurdle. 

“We are taking a gradual step forward that we want to be firm but safe. And within that firmness and that safety, there will be the security protocols,” Colombia’s President Ivan Duque said on April 21. “It is important to recover productive life, hand in hand with the protection of health and life.”

Duque’s words brought some hope to many industries that have been hard-hit by the lockdowns but the shortage of manpower that fruit growers are facing is a more insidious challenge. There are simply not enough workers travelling the country to harvest fields. And that means that crops are being left to rot. 

This lack of manpower has already caused the loss of hundreds of hectares of fruit crops in Colombia. 

What happened with watermelons in the northwest region of La Mojana is informative. In La Mojana over 1,600 hectares of watermelons were harvested but it was impossible to transport the fruits to markets due to traffic restrictions and logistics issues. And a lack of buyers has hit fruit sellers as well. 

Less than 50 kilometers north from Bogota, the country’s capital, blueberry growers in a nearby town sent a dramatic SOS over WhatsApp:

“At this moment, the main inconvenience is the mobility of the fruit and of our workers,” they said. “It is not easy to take the fruit out [of the plantation] and some employees are unable to come. For shipments to cities other than Bogota, there’s no transportation available, and with so many checkpoints on the routes, it is hard for the fruits to make it in less than a week to other cities.” The fear is that the blueberries will simply rot during the long trips to other cities.

In an effort to help micro, small and medium companies, Colombia’s national government launched three credit lines that add up COP$16 billion ($4 billion) with guarantees of 80 percent and 90 percent for those companies that can keep people employed until the Covid-19 crisis is over. However, many entrepreneurs across the country complain that it is hard to access those credit lines at the banks.

Manpower flying away

And the lack of manpower is likely to get worse, further straining supply chains. Many companies are running short of cash (as they cannot get their product to market) but also the workers willing to work on the farms may disappear. 

Over the past few years, about 2 million Venezuelans have fled the regime Nicolas Maduro’s regime and moved to Colombia

These Venezuelan workers are key for the coffee sector by harvesting plantations at relatively low wages. Thousands of those migrants that were living in Colombia, set foot in North direction since the outbreak began in Colombia on March 6, and are marching back to their home-country through the country’s roads, escaping economic uncertainty in Colombia, while defying the shelter-in-place orders that don’t allow them to find a way of making a living on a daily basis.

According to Felipe Muñoz, presidential advisor for the migratory crisis, more than 35,000 thousand Venezuelans have moved back to their home country despite the fact that the borders are officially closed. The border between Colombia and Venezuela is 2,200 kilometers long and it is not hard to find a spot that is not surveilled. 

And with no rural workers from Colombia or Venezuelan migrants to do the picking, coffee growers like those in Planadas, Tolima, are desperately trying to convince neighbors in the town to help pick coffee beans.

“We are a little bit worried about the shortage of manpower for handpicking the coffee harvest,” Willington Gutiérrez, a coffee grower, told RCN Radio. “We have tried to create awareness with the people. For example, the one that was food-seller on the street, or the one who had a micro or small business, that now has no other alternative, could come and give us a hand, since we are going to really need it here in the land.”

Coffee growers estimate that between three and four people are needed to pick one hectare of coffee. Planadas alone needs some 40,000 workers to get coffee beans to markets, markets that are now paying about US$2.50 per kilogram of coffee.

57 Comments

  1. ? was suggested this ?log by my cousin. I am no longer sure whether or not
    this publish is written b? him as nobody else know such distinct about my prob?em.
    You’re wonderful! Thanks!

  2. It’s very trouble-free to find out any topic on net as compared to textbooks, as I found this
    post at this website. 0mniartist asmr

  3. f?ntastic put up, very informative. I wonder why the
    opposite experts of this sector d?n’t realize this. You must continue y?ur writ?ng.

    I’m sure, y?u have a huge readers’ base already!

  4. Does y?ur blog hav? a contact page? I’m having
    a tough time locating it but, I’d ??ke to send ?ou an e-mai?.
    I’ve got some cr?ative ide?s for y?ur blog you might be interested in hearing.
    ?ithe? way, great webs?te and I look fo?ward to seeing it
    g?ow over time.

  5. Thanks fo? some other g?eat post. The ?lace else could anyone get that kind ?f inf? in such an ideal means of w?iting?
    I’ve a presentation s?bsequent week, and I am on the look
    fo? su?h informati?n.

  6. al? the time i used to read smaller a?ticles or reviews that also clear their motive, and that is also ha?pening with thi?
    post w?ich I ?m rea?ing at this plac?.

  7. Good ?ay! I know this is kinda off topic howe?er , I’d fig?red I’d ?sk.
    Would you ?e inte?ested in exchanging links or maybe guest writing a blo? po?t or vice-versa?

    My b?og covers a lot of the s?me topics as yours and I think we could greatly benefit from each
    other. If you’re interested feel free to shoot me an e-mail.
    I lo?k forward to hearing from you! Great blog by the w?y!

  8. This i? the right web?ite for anybody ?ho hopes to find out about this topic.
    You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I personally would w?nt to…HaHa).

    You definitely put a brand new spin on a t?pic whic? has been written about
    for decades. G?eat ?tuff, just great!

  9. Please let me know if yo?’re lo?king for ? author for you? weblog.

    Y?u have some really gre?t posts and I believe I ?ould be a good asset.
    If you ev?r want to take some of the load off, I’d love to write some material for your blo? in exchange for
    a link back to mine. Please send me an e-mail if interested.
    Regards!

  10. Th?nk you for some other wonderful article. The p?ace else could anybody get that
    type of ?nf? in such ?n ideal way of writing?
    I have a presentation next week, and ?’m at the s?arch for such ?nformat?on.

  11. I hav? been browsing online greater than th?ee hours as ?f late, but I by
    no means found any attention-grabbing article like yours.
    It’s beautiful value enough fo? me. Personally, if all webmasters and bloggers made e?cellent content as you did, the net c?n be much more helpful than ever
    befo?e.

  12. Hi, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility issues.
    When I look at your blog in Opera, it looks fine but
    when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.

    I just wanted to give you a quick heads up!
    Other then that, wonderful blog! asmr 0mniartist

  13. A f?scinating discussi?n is worth comment. ? do think that you ought to publish more abo?t
    this topic, it m?ght not b? a taboo subject but usually pe?ple do not speak about th?se s?bjects.

    To the ne?t! Best wishes!!

  14. I am sure this piece of writ?ng h?s t?uched a?l the internet
    users, its really really fastidious paragraph on bu?lding up new web?og.

  15. Hi, I think ?our bl?g m?ght be having browser compatibility issues.
    When I look at your blog site in Safari, it loo?? fine but when opening in ?nternet ??plorer, it has some overlapping.
    I just wanted to gi?e y?u a quick heads up!
    Other then that, exce?lent bl?g!

  16. I’m no l?nger certain where you’re getting your information, however good topic.
    I must spend a while learning more or understanding more.
    Thank you for wonderful info I us?d to be on the loo?out for this information for my mission.

  17. I ?as recommended this we?site by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as
    nobody else kno? such ?etailed ab??t my difficulty. You are ?maz?ng!

    Thanks!

  18. I am not certa?n where yo?’re getting your
    information, however good topi?. I needs to spend a while studying more
    or figur?ng out more. Thanks for fantastic info ? ?sed
    to be on the look?ut fo? this information for my mission.

  19. I’m gone t? inform my little brother, that he should also p?y
    a quick visit this we? ?ite on regular basis to get updated fr?m newest reports.

  20. I’m ama?ed, I mu?t s?y. Seldom ?o I encount?r a blog t?at’s both e?ucative
    and amusing, and let me tell you, yo? have
    hit the nail on the head. The issue is an ?ssue that not enough folks are speaking intelligently about.
    I am very happy I stumbled across this dur?ng my search for something regarding this.

  21. My br?ther recommended I would possibly like this blog.
    He was ?ntirely right. ?his submit actu?lly made my day.
    ?ou cann’t consider just how much time I had spent for this information! Thank you!

  22. I am r?ally insp?red togeth?r w?th your writ?ng talents as
    ?ell as with the format in your blog. Is this a ?aid topic or did you
    modify it your self? Anyway stay up the nice high
    quality writing, it is rare to peer a nice blog like this one today..

  23. gre?t post, very informative. I wonde? why th? other experts of
    this sector do not realize this. ?ou should c?ntinue your writing.

    I am conf?dent, you have ? huge reader?’ base a?ready!

  24. I reall? like your blog.. very nice colors & theme.
    Did you make this website your?elf or did ?ou ?ire someone to
    do it for you? Plz answer back as I’m look?ng to create my own b?og and would like to find out where u got thi? from.
    many thanks

  25. Hel?o, ? th?nk that i saw you visited my blog so i came to
    “r?turn t?e favor”.I’m attempting to find things
    to enhance m? site!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!

  26. W?w, amazing weblog struct?re! How lengthy ?ave you been ?logging for?
    y?u mad? running a blog look easy. The whole look of your website is great, as smartly as the cont?nt!

  27. He?a i am for the first time here. I fo?nd this board and I
    find It really usefu? & it helped me out much.
    I hope to give something back and aid others
    like you aided me.

  28. ?hank yo?, I have recently been looking for information about t?is subject for a long time and yours is the
    ?est I’?e came upon till now. But, wh?t about th?
    bottom line? Are you ?ertain conc?rning the suppl??

  29. The?e are genuinely enormo?? ideas in concerning blogging.

    You have t?uched some fastidiou? factors ??r?.
    Any way keep up wrinting.

  30. I’m extremely inspired along with you? writing
    skills and also wit? the layout in your weblog. Is this a paid subject
    or ?id you modify it your self? Either way ke?p up
    the nice quality writing, it is uncommon to peer
    a nice blog like this one to?ay..

  31. Having r?ad this I thought it was extremely informative.
    I ?ppr?ciate you taking t?e time and energy to put this short article together.
    I once again find myself ?ersonally spending way too m?ch time both reading and posting comments.
    But so w?at, it was still ?orth it!

  32. Greate piece?. ?ee? posting such kind of information on y?ur page.
    Im ?eally impresse? by your site.
    Hey there, ?ou have done a fantastic job.
    I will certainly digg it and in my view recommend to my friends.
    I am sure they w?l? be benef?ted from this website.

  33. No matt?r if some one sea?ch?s for his essential
    thing, ther?fore he/she wants to be av?ilable that
    in detail, thus that thing is maintained over here.

  34. Hey I kno? this is ?ff topic but I was wondering if you knew of any widgets I could add to my blog that automatically tweet my newest twitter up?ates.
    I’ve been looking for a plug-in like this for quite some time and was hoping
    maybe you would have some exp?rience with somet?ing like this.

    Please let me know if you ?un into anyth?ng.
    I truly enjoy reading your blog and I look forward to your new updates.

  35. ?ow! In th? ?nd I got a blog from where I be capable of genuine?y obtain valuable facts regarding my study and knowledge.

  36. We are a bunch of voluntee?s and opening a brand new
    schem? in our community. Your ?ite pr?vided
    us wit? valuable informat?on to work on. ?ou’ve performed a f?rmidable job and our
    whole group will probably be thankful to you.

  37. When I originally commented I click?d the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get several emails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove people from that service?

    Many thanks!

  38. Hi! Do you know if they make any plugins t? help with SEO?
    I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targ?ted k?ywords but I’m not seeing very good success.
    If yo? know of any please share. Kudos!

  39. Hel?o, There’s no doubt that yo?r site m?ght be having internet browser
    compatibility problems. Whenever I look at your website in ?afari,
    it looks f?ne ho?eve?, if opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping issues.
    I simply wanted to pro?ide you with a quick h?ads u?! B?sides that,
    great blog!

  40. I lov?d as much as ?ou’ll r?ceive carried out right here.
    The ?ketch is attractive, your authore? mater?al stylish.

    nonetheless, you command get got an edginess over that you wish
    ?e de?ivering the following. unwell unqu?stionably come more
    formerly ?gain since exactly the same nearly a lot often inside case you shield this ??ke.

  41. I w?s sug?ested this website by my cousin. I’m not
    sure whet?er th?s ?ost is w?itten by him as no one ?lse know s?ch detailed about my trouble.

    ?ou are incredible! Thanks!

  42. Hi the?e, just became a?ert to your blog through Google, and found that
    it’s real?y informative. I’m gonna ?atch out for brussels.
    I’ll appreciate if you continue th?s in future.

    A lot ?f people will be benefited from your writing.
    Cheers!

  43. Great ?log here! Also your website loads up fast!

    W?at we? host are y?u ??ing? Can I get your affiliate link to
    your host? I wish my website lo?ded up as quickly as ??urs lol

  44. Wh?t’s up it’s me, I am also visit?ng this ?eb page regularly, t?is website ?s genuinely pleasant and the pe?ple are ?ctu?lly
    s?aring good thoughts.

Comments are closed.