Update from Origin: Guatemala

CAFECOM S.A.,  a coffee export organization we work with, produced a report compiled by their field agents in Guatemala on the damage from the volcanic eruption in May and the subsequent flooding from Tropical Storm Agatha.

We like to share these stories with our customers and interested readers to help them understand how minor news stories in the US have major implications on the farmers in production countries which, in turn, impacts coffee quality and availability to us.  It always reminds us of the investments the farmers make to produce quality coffees and the efforts needed to get them to us, the customers and consumers.

Our Roastmaster and Green Coffee Buyer Brandon Riggs talks with farmers, exporters and importers throughout the year to understand what is happening with the crops in terms of production and quality issues to ensure we are obtaining the best coffees for our customers.

The Pacaya Volcano erupted on Thursday evening spewing sand, ash and rocks over 100km.  The eruption forced evaluations of residents.  Homes and building were damaged along with closures of roads and airports. Sadly, as of May 31st, 2010, two fatalities and three missing persons were reported.

From a coffee perspective, the falling ash and rocks caused damage to the leaves and beans, including burning and severe damage to many coffee trees.  The damage to the plants may also make them more susceptible to fungus and other diseases during the fruiting of the trees.  Guatemala typically starts their coffee harvest late in the year (fourth calendar quarter continuing through the first quarter).

The first tropical system of the Pacific in 2010, Agatha, deposited in the mountains of Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, 10 to 30 inches in 24 hours with winds up to 40 mph.

As of June 2, 2010, there were 156 fatalities and more than 100 still missing.  More than 180,000 were evacuated to temporary shelters.  18 bridges on major highways were collapsed or washed out, hampering recovery efforts and normal movement of goods.

Reports of damages to coffee farms and mills in Antigua, Atitlan, and Fraijanes. Roads and bridges were destroyed or damaged in the other regions which, if not repaired before harvest, could impact the movement of cherries to the mills and the green coffee to market.  Anacafe, the government coffee organization, estimates US 30million in direct coffee crop losses and over US $ 15million to coffee farm physical property.  In addition to the coffee losses, Guatemalan farms suffered losses in florist flowers, vegetables, bananas, corn and shrimp farms.

Jeff Vojta
Stockton Graham & Co.