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Peruvian coffee is known for its high quality. It is usually grown at high altitudes, and most is exported to the international market. Yet the country’s coffee farmers face real challenges: old plantations mean yields are going down, and climate change is making weather less predictable, which means more pests and diseases. But by keeping their focus on quality, farmers from the cooperative Cenfrocafe are optimistic for the future.
The formula for good coffee
Sergio Fuentes Ramirez is a coffee farmer and a regional manager for his cooperative. He says there are three factors that come together to make good quality coffee: “The variety of the plant, the external conditions like the climate and the altitude, and how it’s managed by the farmer and workers.” And according to Sergio, certification helps the cooperative with all three.
The coffee plant
Thanks to the extra income the cooperative receives from certification, the cooperative can invest in research on the best varieties of coffee for producing a high quality harvest. This work is led by Albertino Meza Ojeda, who is responsible for supporting and training coffee farmers. “I have travelled all over Latin America to learn about coffee production and how it is done in different places, and I am always looking for ways to improve what we do,” he says. He finds and tests out new coffee varieties, to see which ones are most suitable to the region, and then the cooperative supports farmers to introduce these varieties on their own farms.
Just as important to the quality of the coffee are the external conditions. Farmers in this region of Peru have noticed the weather changing over recent years, with higher temperatures and unreliable rain. This in turn can lead to more pests and diseases harming the coffee plants. The requirements in the UTZ program help farmers to deal with these changes – for example, growing shade trees helps to protect coffee plants from the heat, and good pruning methods can prevent pests and diseases.
The third factor is the way the coffee is grown and handled by the farmer and workers, and again UTZ certification has a big role to play. For example, farmers and workers are trained in good agricultural practices like fertilizing and pruning, and in how to handle the coffee after the harvest.
Looking to the future
So how do the farmers of Cenfrocafe feel about the future of the coffee industry? Amaro sums it up: “Both of my sons are coffee farmers. They never considered doing anything else – they want to continue the family business.”
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