Weekly Coffee News


Central America – Severe Drought effects Coffee Communities

SAN SALVADOR, Aug 20 (Reuters) – Central American and Caribbean governments on Thursday issued an official alert as severe drought in the region damages the crops of some 1.6 million people.

As part of the step, governments from the farming-dependent region pledged to help afflicted families and coordinate international relief efforts to deal with the drought, the cost of which is still being calculated.

“Agreement has been reached to declare an agricultural alert across all of Central America and the Caribbean, not just to … take preventive steps for what follows, but also raise international awareness and seek cooperation,” Orestes Ortez, El Salvador’s Agriculture Minister, told reporters.

Officials from Central American governments and the Dominican Republic took part in a meeting on the drought in El Salvador.

Last week, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said nearly 1 million people in Guatemala alone are struggling to feed themselves due to drought and poor harvests.

Central American coffee farmers have already been hit hard by a deadly fungus known as roya in the past two seasons.


Economist Article – CBB and resistance to caffeine

THE coffee-berry borer is a pesky beetle. It is thought to destroy $500m-worth of unpicked coffee beans a year, thus diminishing the incomes of some 20m farmers. The borer spends most of its life as a larva, buried inside a coffee berry, feeding on the beans within. To do so, it has to defy the toxic effects of caffeine. This is a substance which, though pleasing to people, is fatal to insects—except, for reasons hitherto unknown, to the coffee-berry borer. But those reasons are unknown no longer. A team of researchers led by Eoin Brodie of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Fernando Vega of the United States Department of Agriculture had a suspicion the answer lay not with the beetle itself, but with the bacteria in its gut. As they outline in Nature Communications, that suspicion has proved correct.

The team’s hypothesis was that the borer’s gut bacteria are shielding it by eating any caffeine it has ingested before the poison can be absorbed through the insect’s gut wall. Experiments on a laboratory-reared strain of the borer suggested this hypothesis was probably true. Initially, the larvae’s droppings were caffeine-free. When the lab-reared insects were dosed with antibiotics, this and Dr Vega turned to wild beetles. They collected samples from seven coffee-growing countries and combed through the insects’ gut floras, looking for features in common. By constructing what was, in effect, a Venn diagram of microbes from these populations, and also those from their lab-bred strain, they were able to focus on the bacterial species found in all of them.

They tried growing each of these on a medium whose only source of carbon and nitrogen for metabolism was caffeine. Some of the bugs were able to survive on this diet, others were not. Of the survivors, the most abundant in beetle guts was Pseudomonas fulva. This species, a genetic analysis showed, is blessed with an enzyme called caffeine demethylase, which converts caffeine into something that can be dealt with by normal metabolic enzymes.

Kill P. fulva, then, and you would probably kill the borer. But that is easier said than done. Even if spraying coffee plantations with antibiotics were feasible and would do the job (by no means certain, for the larvae would have to ingest sufficient antibiotic for the purpose), it would be undesirable. The profligate use of antibiotics encourages resistance, thus making them less effective for saving human lives.

There might, though, be another way of getting at P. fulva. This would be to craft a type of virus, known as a bacteriophage, specific to the bug—an approach already being investigated for the treatment of human illness caused by a different species ofPseudomonas.

In practice, more than one type of phage would probably be needed, for if P. fulva were knocked out, another caffeine-consuming bacterium in the beetle’s gut might end up replacing it. But, regardless of the details, this study has introduced a novel way of thinking about pest control. Many plants use poisons to protect themselves from insects. Sometimes, such plants are crops. Being able to circumvent these natural insecticides is an important part of becoming abundant enough to constitute a pest. It is possible other agronomists who have been seeking to understand how critters do this have been looking in the wrong place—ie, at the critters themselves, rather than among the bacteria in their guts.

http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21657765-novel-approach-pest-control-beetles-and-bugs?fsrc=nlw%7Cnewe%7C20-07-2015

 


ECOM Costa Rica – Juan Gabriel Cespedes – World Cup Tasters Champ 2015 !

JuanGabECOM’s own Juan Gabriel Cespedes won the World Championship Cup Tasters competition last month in Sweden.

He’s the first winner hailing from Latin American to win the competition, and he won by a clear majority, perfect score of 8/8 sets


Coffee Grounds in your Garden…

The following information was developed for Sunset by Soil and Plant Laboratory Inc., Bellevue, WA.

Summary: Use of  xxxxxxx   coffee grounds in amending mineral soils up to 35 percent by volume coffee grounds will improve soil structure over the short-term and over the long-term. Use of the coffee grounds at the specified incorporation rates (rototilled into a 6- to 8-inch depth) will substantially improve availabilities of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and copper and will probably negate the need for chemical sources of these plant essential elements.

The nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium “guaranteed analyses” would be as follows for the coffee grounds:

Nitrogen: 2.28 percent
Phosphorus: 0.06 percent
Potassium: 0.6 percent

Available nutrient levels: The pH or reaction of the coffee grounds is considered slightly acidic and in a favorable range at 6.2 on the pH scale.

Salinity (ECe) is a measurement of total soluble salts and is considered slightly elevated at 3.7 dS/m. The primary water-soluble salts in this product are potassium, magnesium, sodium and chloride. The potentially problematic ions in sodium and chloride are each sufficiently low as to be inconsequential in terms of creating problems for plants.

The availabilities of nitrogen, calcium, zinc, manganese and iron are quite low and in some cases deficient. Thus, the coffee grounds will not supply appreciable amounts of these essential plant elements when used as a mineral soil amendment.

However, the availabilities of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and copper are each sufficiently high that there will be a very positive impact on improving availabilities of these elements where the coffee grounds are used as a mineral soil amendment. The coffee grounds will negate the need for additional sources of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and copper when blended with mineral soils.

In summary, the available plant essential elements which will be substantially improved where the coffee grounds are used as a soil amendment, include phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and copper.

Total nutrient levels: Each cubic yard of these coffee grounds contains a total of 10.31 lbs. nitrogen, of which 0.01 lb. (0.09%) are available. Thus, even though available nitrogen is considered deficient in this product, there still remains over 10 lbs. of total nitrogen per cubic yard of coffee grounds. Thus, nitrogen is primarily bound in the organic fraction and is unavailable to plants until soil microorganisms degrade the organic fraction. Through this process, the nitrogen is converted to plant available forms. Over the long term the coffee grounds will act like a slow release fertilizer providing long-term nitrogen input which can then be utilized by plants.

Nearly all potassium and all magnesium are in the available forms. This means that immediate availability improvements for these two elements will take place when the coffee grounds are blended with mineral soils. About half of the copper and calcium are in their immediately available forms.

All other plant essential elements are primarily bound in the organic fraction and will thus be subject to slow release over time as soil microbes continue to degrade the organic fraction.

Physical properties: Virtually all particles passed the 1 millimeter (mm) screen resulting in a product which is very fine textured. Each cubic yard of the coffee grounds will supply an excellent amount of organic matter, measured at 442 lbs. organic matter per cubic yard. At the use rates indicated in this report, the input of organic matter will be substantial and will result in considerable short-term and long-term improvement of mineral soil structure.

Carbon/nitrogen ratio: On the basis of dry matter bulk density (452 lbs. per cubic yard), organic matter content (97.7%) and total nitrogen (2.28%), the estimated carbon/nitrogen ratio is about 24:1. This means that there is more than sufficient nitrogen present in the coffee grounds to provide for the nitrogen demand of the soil microorganisms as they degrade the organic fraction.

Use rate: Based on the overall chemistry and physical properties of the coffee grounds, they can be utilized at rates similar to other organic amendments when used in amending mineral soils. These data indicate that 25-35 percent by volume coffee grounds can be blended with mineral soils of any type to improve structure of those soils.


Colombia Coffee sees labor shortages

JARDIN, COLOMBIA | BY PETER MURPHY
As Colombia cheers a return to its biggest coffee harvest in eight years
after beating off a disease epidemic, farmers are running into a
potentially more serious problem: a shortage of workers to gather swelling
volumes of arabica beans.
Some regions have turned to town criers and loudspeaker bus-station
announcements to find candidates for the arduous, cash-in-hand work, but
the meager response means more and more farmers are leaving some of their
crop unpicked.
The labor shortages are a side effect of economic growth that has cut
unemployment to historic lows. Experts say it will be tough for the world’s
top grower of mild arabica to expand far beyond Colombia  million 60-kg bags a
year now. They say that will eventually push Colombian coffee prices
higher.
“There is talk of reaching 15, 18 million bags but the big question is who
will pick it? I think we’re approaching the ceiling,” said Marcelo Salazar,
head of the central Caldas branch of the farmer-funded National Coffee
Growers’ Federation.
In Colombia a key turn-off for coffee pickers, beyond exposure to the
elements and the physical challenge of working on steep inclines, is the
job’s informality. Growers say they cannot afford to pay for pensions or
other fringe benefits.
“Gathering coffee is for crazy people. It’s a very hard job. I’m waiting to
get into the army,” said picker Alejandro Hernandez, 17, walking home in
rubber boots on a wet Saturday in Fredonia, Antioquia, a collection bucket
slung over his shoulder.
He currently earns 200,000 pesos (around $80) a week, about a quarter more
than the minimum wage. Colombia’s construction boom and $24 billion highway
building program are soaking up labor on top of a steady rural exodus
shifting workers to cities.
Poorer areas like the southwest can still expand coffee output a little
with land and hands to spare. But experts say Colombia, which has seen its
global market slide to an 8 percent share, will be unable to claw back the
15 percent it enjoyed two decades ago.
The labor squeeze will likely raise Colombian prices in the longer term
once steadily growing demand for its high-end beans exhausts production
capacity. This could spur Central American rivals to boost output in
response.
Fewer hands to carry out farm maintenance would also heighten the threat
from coffee-eating berry borer pests. Infestations can decimate crops
unless kept in check by scrupulous sweeping up of infected fruit.
The worker shortage is part of a broader human resource problem. The
average age of coffee farmers is now 55, and their offspring are turning
away from a business where financial volatility is one of the few
certainties.
Colombia has about 600,000 coffee pickers. The coffee federation estimates
that the biggest coffee areas need 20 to 40 percent more pickers to ensure
quality by picking each berry when it is at its ripest.
QUANTITY VS QUALITY
Colombia’s high altitudes that enhance flavor allow the country to produce
large quantities of quality coffee. Traders and analysts said that with no
other origin able to match these conditions, Colombia’s coffee will
eventually get more expensive. Central America, prestigious but lacking
high altitudes, is the best alternative, they say.
“Colombia is considered top shelf and cream of the crop … Buyers will
have to pay higher premiums for Central American and Colombian coffee to
get what they want,” said Florida-based coffee analyst Shawn Hackett.
Beans from Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Guatemala would be options for
roasters seeking to replace Colombian, although fungal roya disease has
decimated crops in those countries, where it will take years for new trees
to start producing.
Hackett said growth in the high-end coffee segment could increase
competition for Colombian beans in as soon as three years.
When similar factors caused shortages of pickers in Brazil in the last five
years, the world’s top grower mechanized. But Colombia’s mountainside
farms, tricky to access on foot let alone with machines, rule out that
solution.
Farmer-funded coffee researcher Cenicafe has studied everything from
mechanization and alternative varieties of trees to hand-held gadgets that
can strip beans from branches faster to boost productivity, but none have
proven viable.
Growers say cutting corners on quality is the only way volumes can be
increased, by stripping all the fruit in one labor-saving sweep and
separating ripe from unripe afterward.
Some large farms, now forced to do that, have to discard unripe beans or
sell them locally since they fall short of Colombia’s export standards.
“It’s a critical situation now. All the boys are going to the city. They
don’t want to work the land. There are no incentives,” said farmer Conrado
Antonio Marin, in Jardin, a town in Antioquia province, one of the biggest
coffee regions.
He has hiked wages more than 50 percent in three years but to little avail.
He can find only two pickers and must join in himself to harvest his own
2.5-hectare farm.
It’s a familiar story for Fredonia coffee buyer Juan Saul Parra, 32.
“There are people with trees to produce 1,000 arrobas (11.5 tonnes), who
harvest only 800 because they don’t have anyone to pick it all,” he said,
sifting through a bean sample while a farmer awaited a price.
“As the years go by, this will get worse and worse.”
(Reporting by Peter Murphy; Editing by Helen Murphy and David Gregorio)

 


Climate Change And Food Security: Coffee Farmers In Tanzania Feel Strain Of Rising Temperatures, Unpredictable Rainfall

Hundreds of farmers in Tanzania are abandoning crops of coffee and cotton due to changes in the local climate. Instead, they’re planting more lucrative vegetables and flowers as temperatures rise and rainfall becomes less predictable.

“Coffee beans are no longer as profitable, as my harvests keep on falling,” Ludovick Meela, a farmer from Tanzania’s northern Kilimanjaro region, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the Reuters news organization. “I need fast-growing crops I can sell for a quick income.”

The strain to Tanzania’s cash crops is the latest sign that climate change is altering how and where food is produced around the world. In Honduras, banana farmers are seeing yields decline amid fierce cold snaps and erratic rain patterns. India’s wheat and rice crops are suffering from hotter weather, and in the U.S. West, enduring drought has caused the beef-cattle herd to shrink to its lowest level in more than 60 years.

Climate change is also exacerbating a water scarcity challenge in the U.S. and globally. About 80 percent of the world’s freshwater resources are used to produce food, by some estimates, but drought, irregular rainfall and warmer surface temperatures are threatening to diminish those supplies. “Agriculture and food production as we know it in the United States is at risk, perhaps at far greater risk than we realize,” Jay Famiglietti, a senior water-cycle scientist at NASA, told reporters earlier this month.

In Tanzania, scientists have attributed the drop in arabica coffee yields to a rise in nighttime temperatures in recent decades.

Since 1966, the country’s coffee production has fallen by 46 percent, a trend expected to continue this century. Over that same period, Tanzania’s nighttime average temperature has ticked up by 1.4 degrees Celsius (2.5 degrees Fahrenheit), according to a recent study by South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand. The researchers estimated that for each 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degree Fahrenheit) rise in the mean minimum temperature, coffee farmers were likely to lose around 137 kilograms (300 pounds) of coffee per hectare (2.5 acres) annually.

Tanzania’s declining coffee output has a limited impact on the world’s supply of the caffeine-rich beans — the country produces less than 1 percent of arabica coffee worldwide, according to Tanzania’s Coffee Board. But the regional economy could suffer significantly if coffee production falls further, observers say. The industry employs about 2.4 million people in Tanzania and millions more in neighboring countries in East Africa. “The effects to livelihoods and jobs will be huge,” Haji Semboja, an economics professor at the University of Dar es Salaam, told Reuters in April.

The declining trend is pushing Meela and other farmers in Tanzania to cultivate other types of crops — such as cabbage, onions, lettuce and potatoes — and to keep dairy cattle. Meela said he believes these are a better investment of his time and money than climate-threatened coffee, the Reuters foundation reported Monday.

“When my children were growing up, coffee was everything to me,” he told the news organization. “I got a lot of income from it, which enabled me to gain economically, but all that is history.”


The Coffee Space Arms Race !

Espresso? Now the International Space Station Is Fully Equipped
By ELISABETTA POVOLEDOMAY 4, 2015
Samantha Cristoforetti, the first Italian woman in orbit, after brewing the
first espresso in space. Credit NASA, via Associated Press
ROME — Samantha Cristoforetti had an espresso on Sunday that was out of
this world, and she did it in the name of science.
Ms. Cristoforetti is an astronaut, the seventh Italian and the first
Italian woman to venture into orbit. She has been at the International
Space Station since November, and over the weekend she got to do something
quintessentially Italian: She became the first person to drink an authentic
serving of what she called “the finest organic suspension ever devised” in
space.
“Fresh espresso in the new Zero-G cup! To boldly brew … ” she posted on
social media, where she has been chronicling her stay on the station with
photos and explanatory videos.
However much she may have enjoyed her first espresso in more than five
months, making the drink in orbit was no lark, but “a very serious study in
fluid physics,” Roberto Battiston, president of ASI, the Italian space
agency, wrote in an emailed statement. “Until Sunday, we didn’t know
exactly how hot fluids under high pressure reacted” in the near-weightless
environment of the space station, he said. “Now we do.”
A special espresso maker, named ISSpresso, was designed for the task by
Argotec, an engineering and software firm based in Turin, and the Italian
coffee producer Lavazza, with help from the space agency. It was included
among the experiments and technical demonstrations that Ms. Cristoforetti,
a captain in the Italian Air Force, was scheduled to carry out on her
mission to the station, which ends in mid-May.
“Coffee represents one of the distinctive elements of Italian culture,”
said a spokeswoman for the agency, who requested anonymity under her
agency’s rules for employees.
Making a proper espresso — a singular alchemy of high temperature, water
pressure and perfectly tamped coffee — is difficult enough to master on
earth. Microgravity conditions made the task still more complicated, and
Argotec took two years to work out how to do it.
“We developed our hardware on the basis of the parameters for making good
coffee, while considering safety requirements,” said Valerio Di Tana, an
engineer at the company.
The squat, 44-pound machine wound up looking something like an
old-fashioned laboratory incubator, built from military-standard
components. “You don’t see those on terrestrial machines,” Mr. Di Tana
said.
The dripless system is even designed to emit a small waft of coffee odor
when the straw is inserted into the pouch containing the brew. Two small
flaps on the side allow an astronaut to hold it without burning a hand.
An important part of the espresso-in-space experience is the newly
developed microgravity coffee cup, which allows astronauts to sip liquids
more or less the way they would use a cup on earth. It does not have an
open top that would allow spills, though; instead, the liquid reaches the
astronaut’s lips by capillary action — “almost like the wicking of water
through a paper towel,” a NASA blog post explains. The cup also provides
data on the passive movement of complex fluids in space.
The ISSpresso machine makes other hot drinks as well, including tea and
consommé. “This is important from the nutritional aspect, but also gives
the astronauts a psychological boost,” David Avino, the managing director
of Argotec, said in a telephone interview on Monday.
The company had already begun the project when another Italian astronaut,
Luca Parmitano, remarked in a June 2013 interview from the space station
that the one thing he really missed in space “was a good cup of espresso.”

 


Port of Oakland says most diverted vessels have returned

In one of the more positive developments to affect West Coast ports since the announcement of a tentative coastwide longshore contract on Feb. 20, the Port of Oakland reported Tuesday that vessels which had been by-passing the Northern California port to keep on schedule have mostly returned.

“Some vessels that were omitting Oakland have already started to return, and a look at schedules indicates that the rest will be back soon,” said John Driscoll, the port’s maritime director.

All West Coast ports have grappled with congestion and vessel backlogs since early November during labor disruptions associated with the contract negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association. An ILWU caucus in San Francisco on Friday voted overwhelmingly to recommend general membership approval of the tentative agreement that was reached on Feb. 20. Voting will be held next month, with the results to be announced on May 22.

More than two dozen vessels bypassed Oakland in January and February to maintain schedule integrity. Now that carriers are returning to their normal trans-Pacific rotations, importers and exporters in Northern California can resume their standard supply chain practices.

This will certainly help to boost Oakland’s cargo volumes. Vessel by-passes contributed to a 31.6 percent decline in container volume in January and February.

Oakland’s two largest container lines, Maersk Line and Mediterranean Shipping Co., have already resumed Oakland calls. The G6 alliance has restored two services and plans to restore two more in April. The CKYHE alliance will be back on its normal schedule by early May, Oakland reported.

The port continues to work with terminal operators and trucking companies to improve gate fluidity. Some trucking companies report their drivers are spending too much time in long lines outside the terminal gates. Port spokesman Mike Zampa said truck visit times vary widely, with some truckers reporting turn times as short as 38 minutes and others saying turn times are several hours.

Vessel calls in Seattle-Tacoma have returned to normal, and container backlogs on the terminals have dissipated. Port of Seattle spokesman Peter McGraw said occasional surges in exports result in truck bunching at the gates, however.

Terminal operators in Los Angeles-Long Beach are deploying huge quantities of labor on day, night and weekend shifts to reduce the congestion that is still present in the largest U.S. port complex. For example, the PMA reported that on Saturday 1,092 longshore jobs were ordered. The average for a Saturday is 970. On Monday, 1,547 longshore jobs were ordered for the first shift. The average dispatch for a Monday morning gate is 1,260.

The Marine Exchange of Southern California said eight container ships were at anchor on Tuesday. That was down from 10 vessels on Monday. As the vessel backlog in Southern California is reduced, container lines’ schedule integrity in the Pacific Southwest services will improve. The ships call in Oakland after leaving Los Angeles-Long Beach.


Port Delays Continue

Despite the February 21 settlement of a bitter labor dispute at West Coast ports between employers and members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), whose members command average wages and benefits of about $1,200 a day, the continuing bottleneck is still causing job and revenue losses across many US industries.

Breitbart News had reported that the 13,500 ILWU members’ strategy of withholding of needed crane operators and slowing of crane movements cost shippers and their customers an estimated $1 billion a day during January and February.

The start of the year through early March traditionally is a slow time for international trade, but it tends to be a busy period for certain industries like agricultural exports and building material imports.

For California’s fresh fruit and vegetables producers, losses may never be recovered even after the settlement. Port delays are still running up to eight weeks, which means about 20 percent of this year’s agricultural exports are expected to spoil. Sun Pacific Shippers and Farming, the largest navel orange grower in California and largest kiwi grower in the United States, told the San Francisco Chronicle that port delays will cut their firm’s exports in half this year.

In addition, the bottlenecks at the West Coast ports that caused such horrendous losses pushed back building material imports by at least eight weeks, just as construction demand is accelerating in the spring ramp-up.

With the hot IPO market flooding Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area with oodles of cash, a number of large trophy office projects had been going-up in the South of Market tech zone. But much of that building has ground to a halt due to protracted delays blamed on the shortage of tempered exterior glass.

Nathan Rundel of the Build Group told CBS San Francisco: “We were all trying to get the cost of these projects less. And so we started to source Chinese curtain wall or overseas curtain wall.” He commented that the hoped-for savings have been more than wiped out by millions of dollars in delays.

Glass Shortage Impacting San Francisco’s Skyline
CBS San Francisco

According to Rundel, “curtain wall” that serves as the outside skin of most modern high-rises is always custom ordered for the each project. Without glass on the exterior, interior work on the structure cannot begin.

Rundel estimates that a delay could cost him $200,000 a month per building. Fortunately, he ordered glass from a very trusted supplier that took extra steps to get his materials delivered on time. He doesn’t have much sympathy for competitors that went for cheap imported curtain wall, “Their glass has been delayed five, six, seven months. Both from the fact that they went to new vendors and the fact that they can’t get their material.”

But Rundle has lots of sympathy for the construction workers that should be making big money in a record year of work. Due to the continuing bottleneck that is the hang-over from union battle at the ports, hundreds of hard-working laborers are being impoverished.


Brazil Crop Forecast Update

March 18 (Reuters) – An unprecedented drought reduced 2014 coffee production in Brazil, the world’s biggest grower, and stunted tree branch growth for the upcoming 2015/16 crop.

German coffee trader Neumann forecast in a March report that Brazil will harvest 45.3 million 60-kg bags of coffee in the harvest that will start in May, according to traders who saw the report.

This is up from its August forecast of 45 million bags. In the August report, it said Brazil’s 2014/15 crop was 47.7 million bags.

This is the lowest in a range of estimates gathered from trade houses since late December, with the highest at 49.5 million bags, estimated in February by Volcafe, the closely watched Swiss-based coffee division of commodities house ED&F Man.

Swiss-based trade house Ecom shaved its forecast slightly in a presentation to clients last week, estimating that Brazil would produce about 49 million 60-kg bags, with roughly 32 million arabica and 17 million robusta.

This was down slightly from its December estimate of 50 million bags.