We recently reached out to some of our producers to see how they are faring during these unprecedented times. Keep reading to find out how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting coffee production in Colombia, Brazil and Ethiopia.
The Colombian government acted quickly and decisively during the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, and the measures taken helped keep the rate of infection low in comparison with neighboring countries. Even so, the virus has put an incredible strain on Colombia’s already fragile health care infrastructure, and the economic impact on the millions already living in poverty has been brutal. Maria Cristina Escobar is the matriarch of Oro Molido, which produces our Selecto 3 and Rose Bourbon. Maria told us that there have been very few infections in the rural communities, and that the cycle of coffee production in Antioquia, Huila and Magdalena continues fairly normally. The first harvest has just been successfully completed, with social distancing in place and protective equipment provided to all farm workers. Moreover, the Oro Molido Foundation has been providing medical supplies and protective equipment to rural hospitals, and has also been giving assistance to families in need. Many of these families are dependent on money sent from city-dwelling relatives, who are now unemployed due to the pandemic. The foundation has been working to identify these vulnerable families and donate basic food and supplies.
Brazil has been one of the countries hardest hit by the novel coronavirus. A combination of factors including ineffective leadership, mixed messages, and high rates of poverty in densely crowded cities has led to alarming rates of infection and a high death count. Fortunately, many rural areas have, so far, been spared from the worst of the outbreak. Our good friend Sergio Dias of COCARIVE reports that the Mantiqueira de Minas region has had very few cases, with the town of Carmo de Minas reporting none at all. As harvest time quickly approaches, the most pressing problem is that of labor shortages. Many of the farmers in the Matiqueira de Minas region rely on seasonal workers from urban areas, but with social distancing rules in place, it has been difficult to transport enough people to harvest the coffee.
The Covid-19 pandemic has taken longer to gain momentum in Africa than in other parts of the world. Our friend Sammy Demisse of Keffa Coffee reports that although the number of cases in Ethiopia are still low, compared with other African countries, the rate of infection is starting to increase; especially in the capital, Addis Ababa. As in Colombia and Brazil, rural areas have, so far, been spared from major outbreaks, and the coffee harvest is beginning as usual. New rules state that face coverings must be worn at all times, and physical distancing can be achieved during harvest. Sammy also tells us that in the past few months, coffee exports have been up by 54,000 tons, compared to the same period last year. This indicates that buyers are eager to ship their coffee as soon as possible, sensing that the rapidly devaluing Ethiopian birr might make the coming fiscal year difficult for business.