Peruvian Coffee Cultivation - El Nino and La Nina Create Challenges For Coffee Farmers

By Timothy S. Collins

For most people, the Spanish words El Nino ("little child") and La Nina ("little girl") are simple, nice and harmless words. Who would have thought they mean agricultural trouble for Peru? Rising temperatures and erratic weather patterns in Peru, associated with El Nino and La Nina have completely changed the coffee growing season in this country.

  • Originally, the name El Nino was associated with "the Christ child."
  • In the late 1800's, fishermen along the coast of Peru started referring to seasonal warm southward ocean currents taking place around Christmas with the name El Nino.
  • These currents displaced the north-flowing cold current where they fished.
  • For people living in Indonesia, Australia, or southeastern Africa, El Nino causes severe droughts and deadly forest fires. For Ecuadorians, Peruvians and Californians, El Nino brings rainstorms that cause devastating floods and mudslides.
  • In the 1980's, the counterpart effects of weather variations associated with colder than usual sea surface temperatures were labeled as La Nina.
  • The shift from El Nino to La Nina takes about four years. It is almost like children taking turns in a dangerous game. The consequences for consistent, predictable and stable farming conditions are very bad. It is very difficult to maintain farming consistency when it is either excessively wet or excessively dry.

This weather fluctuation is Peru's challenge and a big reason why this country struggles to be a leading coffee world producer.

  • Coffee farmers have a very difficult time making well-laid plans for coffee planting, harvesting and processing.
  • Traditionally, Peruvian coffee growers start coffee picking in April which is about six months earlier than the global Arabica harvest.
  • From a volume standpoint, Peru is the sixth largest exporter of Arabica coffee.
  • A positive effect of unpredictable weather is that some Peruvian coffee farmers are turning more to planting shade-grown coffee instead of clear cutting farms.
  • This is, of course, good for the environment and the natural habitats necessary for wildlife and natural flora.
  • However, there are limitations to what farmers can do when you face the reality of Andean hills and mountains as farming lands. Many of such lands offer limited "good coffee" growing soil conditions, they lack water supply and most are very far from good transportation networks.

Despite all these challenges, Peruvian coffee farmers are producing better quality coffees through conservation, education and other programs available to farmers. The best Peruvian coffee is aromatic, gentle, mildly acid and flavorful. Great coffee market areas from Peru are Chanchamayo (south central Peru) and Urubamba, a growing district farther south located near the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.

One last interesting factoid: Peruvians are also learning to drink coffee.

  • Peruvians are among the lowest coffee consumers in South America consuming about 250 grams of coffee per year per capita as compared to Brazil's 4.5 kg and Colombia's 3.2 kg.
  • Peru has established a "National Coffee Day," to promote drinking coffee and encouraging young generations to choose coffee over other beverages.
  • There are far reaching marketing efforts to create a sense of national pride and unity in the symbols of Peru: the national flag, "Pisco" (a national distillate of grapes), "Paso Horses" or Peruvian horses (breed of light pleasure saddle horse), Machu Picchu and coffee.

So, ready to drink a cup of great Peruvian Shade Grown Organic?

Timothy S. Collins
Article by Timothy S. Collins
Timothy ("Tim") S. Collins, the author, is called by those who know him "The Gourmet Coffee Guy." He is an expert in article writing who has done extensive research online and offline in his area of expertise, coffee marketing, as well as in other areas of personal and professional interest. Come visit the author's website:

© Copyright - Timothy S. Collins. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

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