October was a tragic month for many living in Central America. Heavy rains caused landslides and floods across Central American countries, including El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica and parts of Mexico. At least 105 people lost their lives with an additional million people displaced. El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua declared states of emergency. In Guatemala and El Salvador the amount of rain that fell in 18 days equaled the amount that usually falls in 5 months! The rains not only caused significant human loss, but economic loss as crops and livestock were destroyed with the rains. Coffee is a crop that many people in Central America rely on for income. According to the International Coffee Organization (ICO) the rainfall has caused the global coffee output to drop. The ICO originally forecasted a global coffee production for the 2011-2012 season to be 129.5 million bags. The damage to the crops in Central America, combined with the damage to crops in Asia from bad weather, has caused that number to drop to 127.4 million bags.
Caroline Kellems, owner of Godoy's Coffee, whose farm is located in the southeast region of Guatemala, had firsthand experience of the heavy rainfall. Kellems says while "October is generally the end of the rainy season. In Guatemala, it went out with a bang." Kellems experienced landslides, bridges washed out, and pieces of highway falling down cliffs due to the floods caused by the massive amounts of rain. The rain caused so much dampness that the walls seemed to turn green. Even though Kellems experienced the horrible events caused by the heavy rains, Kellems says she feels lucky, as the effect to Godoy's coffee crop seems to be less severe than coffee crops in other regions of Guatemala. The Godoy Coffee farm is located in a relatively dry region with lots of shade which helped spare the crop from the heavy rains. In addition, at Godoy's they begin their harvest in January so the beans were still green. However, as Kellems explains not all coffee growers were as lucky, "some coffee growers had 30% to 40 % percent of their coffee crop damaged as the ripening beans fell to the ground during all the rainfall." The rain has also caused rampant fungal problems and diseases affecting the remaining coffee crop. Kellems says that many of the coffee farmers she has spoken to have tried to process what they could of the damaged crop, but that most of that will be un-exportable. According to Kellems the regions in Guatemala that experienced the most damage from the rains were expecting a high yield coffee crop this year. Coffee is actually a biannual crop with a low yield crop followed by a higher yield crop, and many in the severely affected areas were expecting a high yield. The overall coffee production for Guatemala, the second- largest producer of coffee in Central America, will fall 8.9 percent to 3.6 million bags. Other Central American countries such as El Salvador will see a 21 percent decrease in coffee production.
As the rebuilding continues, BUNN keeps everyone in our thoughts, and hopes for a fast recovery for everyone who was affected by the rains in Central America.
1. MSNBC- http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44978883/ns/weather/
3. Bloomberg- http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-10/rainfall-cuts-global-coffee-output-estimate-in-2011-12-ico-says.html
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