Challenges facing Colombian Coffee

Earlier in the year we agreed to buy coffee from Jhon Faiber Castillo, a farmer in the Inzá Cauca region of Colombia. It was a long term agreement and we decided to buy his whole harvest for the next five years. Prior to this deal, Jhon sold his coffee as part of a cooperative. Our offer gave him a better price for his coffee and an identity for his farm, Casa Loma. Due to the climate in the region, Jhon is able to enjoy two coffee harvests a year. We have already received and used his first shipment and are eagerly awaiting the second. However, all is not well in Colombia and this could potentially have a knock-on effect on the supply of Jhon’s coffee.

Over the past several weeks there have been a series of national strikes in Colombia. These protests have been in part due to the Government’s handling of the Covid crisis in the country and in part due to plans to increase taxes which would impact mostly on low to middle incomes (these plans have been halted, but protest continue). Ironically the price of coffee is high in Colombia at the moment and while coffee farmers have not been joining these strikes, there are real concerns about the implications on the supply chain.

Protestors have been setting up road blockades around the country which are halting coffee shipments. Access roads to the main ports have been blocked which is preventing goods from both entering and leaving the country. Even at a local level many producers are struggling to deliver their products to the dry mills. With coffee backing up, and with no end to the blockades in sight, we’re not quite sure how this will impact on our supply of coffee from Jhon’s farm. Even if protests end, it will take some time to clear the backlog at the ports, bearing in mind that the port of Buenaventura is responsible for 70% of coffee exports.

There is one small piece of good news. In many regions the harvest has been delayed due to climate factors and this is giving farmers some time. Later this week we’ll hopefully receive some information about Jhon’s situation through our broker Mercanta. We already expecting delays to the shipment but having started this relationship we are also keen to know first hand how the current situation is impacting on Jhon and his family.