Peru produces only Arabica coffees with approx 90% of production exported, making it the eighth largest coffee producer in the world and the single largest exporter of organic coffee. Domestic consumption is very small but coffee habits are changing in the cities with coffee bars and cafes similar to what we know in Europe becoming popular.
The majority of coffee is produced by small farm holders, it is estimated somewhere in the region of 160,000 families are involved in coffee farming with the average farm size being one or two hectares. The coffee harvest starts in April/May and runs till June/July, latitude and weather playing their influence. The majority of exports then take place up until September and are shipped out through Callao Paita and Matarani. The journey from farm to port is not an easy one, since the Andean mountain range needs to be crossed by lama or alpaca.
Land reform by the military government in 1968 changed a lot of farmer’s agricultural situations by giving opportunities to small farm growers. Many cooperatives were formed over the next two decades but the majority failed to stay afloat, this situation meant that cooperatives were forced to change strategies, abandoning the previous top-down approach to creating cooperatives from grass roots up.
The result is the multi-services cooperatives of today that have managed to contribute tremendously to the growth of the coffee sector. These include successful cooperative such as Centrocafe where we source our organic coffee from.
Peru committed early to the fairtrade and ethically traded models of farming, partly thanks to the strong culture of cooperatives where such practice is enshrined into their mission statements. The mindset of the producers in Peru is already where the ethical consumer movement in consumer countries wants it to be. In addition to the ethically trading methods many producers work organically by default so achieving organic certification is a natural step.
It is now possible to select Peruvian coffee from specific farms and producer cooperatives with full traceability. It is also increasingly common to see collection points where a scale of prices is paid for coffee reflecting the quality delivered, this is a simple incentive that encourages to raise the quality and identify small exceptional producers.