Editor’s note: Updates from our suppliers keep flying in, and we’re doing our best to stay informed and level-headed. We’ll be sharing information from our extensive network as the coronavirus situation continues to develop both domestically and abroad.

Updates from Peru

Perhaps one of the areas of highest concern as we look to the globe’s leading supplier of certified organic coffees, Peru’s national lockdown has been troubling to coffee buyers as the harvest in some areas is about to begin and concerns about labor shortages, closing offices, and export bans rapidly mounted.

An alarming report by INTL FCStone’s Coffee Network suggested that the country’s strict lockdown, which began on March 15, “has prevented the first ripen beans being produced in lower-altitudes areas to be collected and be brought to coffee cooperatives or large storage centers as the government in the South American country bans coffee growers, pickers and other agricultural workers from leaving their houses.”

Yet, there’s been some encouraging updates recently.

Sales Team Associate and Certifications Specialist Rosi Quiñones reports:

I checked in with staff from Cenfrocafe, Aroma del Valle, Expocafe, Finca Tasta and Coop La Florida.

The state of emergency and curfew in Peru was extended until April 26th, and it looks like it will be extended even longer, but people are hoping it will be lifted or at least adjusted since they’ve already made slight changes to the quarantine policy, such as lifting the rotating gender schedule put in place for routine business. General public transit is still restricted when not essential and police and military are out in the streets to enforce the quarantine measures by Peru’s Ministry of Health (MINSA) because social distancing guidelines were not being followed at all at first. The cultural customs make it hard for people to understand the importance of the preventive measures but the government has been improving communication via educational outreach.

Coffee production and export is considered exempt as Food industry and Agroindustry. Government entities have been emailing suppliers and encouraging them to register their facilities and get transit permits for their employers (have to be renewed every 48 hours): https://www.gob.pe/paselaboral/request_new. This added logistic step is not too complicated but challenges such as lack of resources, access to education, lack of legal formality and corruption are common. So, for example, people who wanted to go home or regularly travel to work started riding cargo trucks to move from place to place and now new cases are appearing in different regions. Economically, many people including most coffee farmers and seasonal workers depend on daily income “jornal”, so it is complicated and saddening that this situation will be hardest on people experiencing poverty. Companies can adapt but the curfew (6pm) and limited transportation make it hard for employees to commute and get back to their homes on time (even with a permit) so most companies that can be opened have reduced schedules.

The preventive measures were especially not followed in the north coast, where the number of cases increased suddenly, so now their curfew starts earlier (4pm). Most farmers are harvesting themselves or finding local labor, once the mains season starts transit of migrant workers for harvest could be restricted depending on the proximity/route and if the employer/coop filled necessary permits.

People are roasting, delivering roasted coffee door to door and to stores, buying green, buying cherry. Buying points, coop offices, mills, trucking companies, customs agencies are allowed to operate but people are scared and trying to follow the shelter in place until the number of cases reduce: https://covid19.minsa.gob.pe/sala_situacional.asp

Lending companies are still operating and so are banks, especially if you have a contract for export, most mills are authorized to open, but it’s up to each company to implement preventive measures for their employers, for example the Expocafe Mill and exporter in Lima decided to remain closed even after getting the permit to re-open because the main specialty season has not started yet. Updated laws and how they affect exports can be found here: https://www.adexperu.org.pe/perunosedetiene/

I encourage roasters to book and buy Peruvian coffees. It has never been more true that without coffee farmers we wouldn’t have anything to sell and enjoy, it’s always been their hard work and dedication that creates this industry. Peruvian people are resilient and the government response has been coherent, everyone is learning as they go just like we are. The main coffee season will start soon and the preventive measures they decided to take during the harvest, processing and export of the coffees will make a difference in people’s lives.

International Sales Team Leader Peter Radosevich also received an update from Hugo at HVC Peru, who had this to say:

April 3rd, 2020 – Day 19 of lockdown, curfew scheduled to end on Monday, April 26th.

We expect a gradual lift of restrictions as from then, but it’s important to monitor if government extends it, no official information about it for the time being. We are working on limited operational plans on our dry mills for April 13th onwards, while we keep supporting our supply chains.

We estimate that 15% of coffee from new crop has been harvested, mainly from low grown areas. Most of it in producers’ hands, on drying process or stored. We estimate that 5% of coffee has been sold internally, mainly to local intermediaries for cash / basic products needs. Net Yields from Parchment still low ~65% for Grades 1-2, which is normal for this time of the year.

We had calls this week with Producers and Suppliers from the 5 main production areas from North and Central of Peru. We are receiving more concerns of contagion and a possible extend of the lockdown period, some rural areas implemented “rondas campesinas” (peasant patrols) and self-blocked the entrance/exit to their towns.

On the other hand, our main coffee harvest is around the corner, starting April for mid-grown areas and later in May for high grown. Therefore, producers will need soon to harvest and sell their coffees before seeing some damage. Labor for harvesting is very limited due to curfew. Similar complex situation in many sectors and industries in Peru, that will be severely affected in case of a longer period of lockdown.

Therefore we expect that government will provide soon announcements of the gradual lift of the lockdown.

We will keep you posted.

Looking for a Peru Replacement?

By spring and summer, most roasters are looking at northern hemisphere coffees, but if you’re concerned about the incoming harvest and want to pad your offerings a little in advance, here are a few coffees that make nice substitutions for classic Peruvian options.

Organics: Peru is well known for its steady supply of certified coffees. Here’s our entire list of organic offerings.

COLOMBIA FTO SIERRA NEVADA SOL NACIENTE GRAINPRO: Peru’s neighbor to the north produces plenty of certified coffees, too. This Sierra Nevada lot is mild and chocolaty with black cherry notes and a hint of applesauce.

GUATEMALA FTO SMBC HUEHUETENANGO ASOBAGRI SHB EP ECOTACT BAGS: Fresh coffee from Central America is on the way. This Huehuetenango is caramely and creamy with a distinct custard-like note.

TIMOR-LESTE ORGANIC ERMERA LETEFOHO KOLKOLI 30KG GRAINPRO: People don’t always look to the Pacific Islands for similar profiles to American coffees, but they’re there! This Timor landed at then end of January and reminded us all of the smooth, chocolaty and almond-like notes of a classic SHB.

UGANDA ORGANIC RFA FULLY WASHED SIPI FALLS GRAINPRO: The always-reliable Sipi Falls fully washed coffees pair deep, cocoa notes with hints of walnut and a clean hint of citrus, making a great espresso and drip coffee alike.