How many times have you walked into your favorite LA boutique coffee shop to enjoy a cup of fine Colombian coffee? And what kind of fit would you throw if you couldn’t have said coffee? Colombia is still No. 1 for exporting those delicious beans you crave daily (don’t hide behind your hands; we can see you and we sympathize), but how long will it last?
Across the country, Colombia coffee growers are blocking roads and demanding government aid. These farmers are met with anti-riot police, and dozens of coffee growers have been injured. The protests have lasted two days already, and the organizers say it will continue indefinitely.
Last year, Colombian coffee growers’ output consisted of about 7.7 million 132-pound bags of coffee (cue Frank Sinatra singing “I’m in heaven…”), which is their lowest output in three decades. In 1992, Colombia produced twice as much.
With an onslaught of heavy rain, crop disease and overvalued national currency, this drop of production is not necessarily a surprise but disconcerting nonetheless. Brazil, Vietnam and Indonesia now lead production of coffee, leaving Colombia ranked No. 4.
What you might find even more depressing for those coffee growers we hold in such high esteem is that two out of every three cups of coffee brewed in Colombia is made from poorer quality beans from Peru and Ecuador. We could assume that Colombians think they have the best coffee in the world, and they don’t even get to drink their own product.
Farmers are asking for more government support to help them out of the production pothole, but Colombian officials say they are doing all they can. However, the world’s coffee prices are dropping, and the exchange rate of the Colombian peso dropped from 2300 pesos per U. S. dollar to 1790 pesos. Additionally, most Colombian farmers work on a smaller scale (typically less than 12 acres of land) than the larger producers, which means they often don’t always have the means to handle crop loss or get paid for their work. Add that on top of the crop loss and flooding preventing farmers from bringing their product to the market, and you have a disaster with no easy fix.
Those of you who believe in the natural equilibrium of things and think the coffee industry will work itself out, sip with a calm mind; the rest of you can rush to the nearest high-end coffee shop and go straight for the Colombian coffee while you can.