Mexico Tries to Boost Quality Coffee Output

Mexico is likely to produce 4.6 million 60-kg bags of coffee in the 2010/11 cycle, which will begin in October, 5 percent more than in the current season, Rodolfo Trampe, head of the national coffee association Amecafe told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
Along with the output boost, Amecafe is aiming to increase the amount of coffee labeled as specialty, organic, or sustainable to between 20 and 25 percent next year, up from just 7 percent of the coffee now produced nationwide.
Mexico has fallen behind some of its Central American neighbors, like Guatemala and Costa Rica, which have worked to bring up the traceable quality of their coffee in order to tap international buyers willing to pay a premium for top-end beans.
“We don’t buy coffee from farms in Mexico because its hard to find coffee with guaranteed high quality,” Starbucks representative Alfredo Casas said at an event in Mexico City on Friday where Amecafe launched its new certification initiative.
To raise standards, Mexico is partnering with U.S.-based organization Quality Coffee Institute to implement a system to certify different types of beans under its “Q Coffee” label.
“In Mexico we’ve lost the ability to distinguish between good and bad coffee. The certification process will give us more access to international markets,” Francisco Piedragil, a coffee farmer and head of the coffee council in the southern state of Guerrero, told Reuters at the event.
Mexico’s coffee production has been declining since the beginning of the decade when prices plummeted on a glut in global supply.
Coffee prices have rebounded since then and Mexico wants to edge into niche markets where growers can make long-term contracts with buyers to shield themselves from some of the market’s volatility.
Certifying a significant chunk of Mexico’s coffee with a quality seal could earn the industry an additional $80 million a year, Amecafe consultant Manuel Diaz said. The international market for specialty coffees is growing 20 percent each year, he added.
Mexico’s 2009/10 coffee crop is seen at 4.4 million 60-kg bags, down from the previous cycle after suffering from a cold snap near the end of last year.
Recent rains from tropical storms that have battered parts of Mexico’s coast do not appear to have had a serious impact on the coffee crop, Rene Avila, an operations coordinator at Amecafe, said at Friday’s event.
“We hope that despite the rains … there will be good production,” Avila told Reuters, referring to the 2010/11 season.

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