The big talk in the coffee industry right now is the roya issue that is damaging coffee crops throughout Latin America. The roya impact is real and it’s here. The coffee harvest is about to begin and Central American coffee producers are seeing drops in their harvest of 25% to 50% from previous years. We’ve been engaged with our farmers for about a year discussing the impact that this shortage would have on their livelihoods. The real impact on farmers has been palpable by the concern I could see in the faces of the leadership of each farm and cooperative. Imagine if you got paid once per year and you knew that next year you would only get 50% of your paycheck. This is how these people felt.
We realized that while we needed to be part of a long-term solution; we needed to help our partners with the real-time need of feeding their families. This could not be done with coffee for this harvest, so we partnered with our friends at Fabretto to come up with a short-term solution in Nicaragua with the Cinco de Junio cooperative. The farmers had resources of incredibly rich soil and labor to work the farm. Fabretto had the technical know-how and ability to execute on implementation of agricultural projects in the Cusmapa area. Mayorga had the ability to finance a new project and to create a market for products through its existing distribution channels (our awesome customers). So we put our heads together and came up with the solution: CHIA!
- It grows very well in climates where great coffee also grows well
- The full seed-to-harvest cycle is about 4 months long
- It can be planted in full sun areas of coffee farms that are typically not utilized for coffee
- It requires very little maintenance after proper planting
- The income per acre for farmers is about 25% more than coffee on an annualized basis
- The supply chain is exactly the same as our Farmer Friendly® coffee supply chain. Direct and efficient.
- There is a tremendous demand for chia in the U.S. right now.
The planting began in September. We wanted to do it as certified organic, but a farm needs to operate under organic methods for three years before being certified, so we’ll have to wait a bit for that. Right now the crop is doing extremely well as it begins to flower. The harvest is expected to take place in February 2014, at which point Cinco de Junio will receive the seeds, pack them in quintales and ship a container-load to Mayorga. We will then package them in our certified food processing facility to ship out for distribution.
While some think that chia has nothing to do with coffee, I would argue that it has EVERYTHING to do with coffee—at least as Mayorga sees coffee. Unlike most coffee companies, we started Mayorga in the mid 90’s to help PEOPLE throughout Latin America. We view every pound of coffee as advancement for coffee farming communities and as a representation of our wonderful culture. When those people and communities struggle, we struggle with them and we then work hand-in-hand to ensure that we can all thrive as one community. The roya issue is still real and we need a long-term solution for it. The industry is doing a great job of trying to understand it, but it isn’t enough. I’m proud of the fact that can be a part of this short-term solution to help farmers through challenging times and I feel blessed to have customers who support these endeavors.