Introduction: Medellin Coffee, Colombia
The history of coffee in Colombia dates back to 1787 while its export started in 1835. At the beginning of the twentieth century, settlers moved up along Cauca River and cleared forest cover to create space for coffee plantations on the valleys of Andes (Equal Exchange).
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The land is only suited for coffee plantations because of its steep slopes, fertile soils and large tracts of such land at an attitude of between 1,000 and 2,000 meters (Equal Exchange). The perennial rainfall adds to the suitability of the land since coffee bushes produce berries throughout the year.
In addition, such conditions make it possible for small-scale farmers to grow coffee since there is no need for many inputs.
At the beginning of 1990, authorities divided the coffee-growing locality of the Central Range into six regions (Equal Exchange).
Currently, the six regions have a population of over 12 million people and over 250,000 coffee farms. The brand name Medellin takes after the second largest city in Colombia, which was initially the capital city of Colombia (Equal Exchange).
Colombian coffee rates among the best in terms of quality in the whole world. Traditionally, Colombia grows Arabica coffee, which does well in the steep slopes and the favorable weather throughout (Equal Exchange).
Coffee Production in Colombia
Concerning planting of coffee, farmers broadcast dry cherries on large nurseries constructed under shades.
When cherries sprout, farmers remove seedlings from the nurseries and transfer them to singular containers, which contain soils prepared in the best way possible for favorable growth (National Geographic).
Seedlings require constant watering and enough shade until they become strong to grow in the plantations. Farmers in Colombia plant seedlings during wet seasons though such seasons are in place almost throughout the year.
Fertile soils, wet weather and a bit of fertilizer application are the major inputs required for coffee growing in Colombia (Pro Export Colombia).
Most of the coffee farming takes place through shade cropping but of late, farmers have moved to organic coffee farming, which does not utilize any fertilizer. Coffee processing in Colombia follows a distinct process consisting of several stages.
The first step involves picking ripe cherries (National Coffee Association USA). In this step, farmers pick very ripe cherries, which are usually red or yellow in color.
Unripe cherries should not find their way into the harvesting basket since they destroy the taste of the coffee drink. Farmers use hands to pick cherries (National Coffee Association USA).
The second step, pulping, involves removal of berry from bean and takes place the same day after picking using special machines (Pro Export Colombia). The beans pass through water routes and then through a number of rotating containers where they are separated based on size.
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Transportation of beans takes place into large fermentation tanks full of water and beans ferment within 48 hours to get rid of mucilage, a slick layer attached to the beans (Pro Export Colombia).
Later, rinsing of the beans takes place and this leads to drying of the beans. The rinsed beans dry until the moisture content gets to approximately 11 percent. Drying can either take place in the sunlight by turning the beans regularly or through machines (Pro Export Colombia).
The third step, milling, consists of several minor steps. Hulling takes place and this involves removing the endocarp and then polishing follows. Polishing involves removing any remaining silver skin using a polishing machine (National Coffee Association USA).
Grading and sorting take place after polishing. Grading uses size and weight criteria as well as other minor imperfections like faded colors. Grading precedes removal of defective beans using sophisticated machines.
Over-fermented beans and beans damaged by insects cannot pass this stage (National Coffee Association USA).
Export of milled and graded beans into importing countries takes place followed by roasting coffee into golden brown beans.
Roasting takes place in machines that keep a temperature of around 550 degrees (National Coffee Association USA). Roasted bones cool promptly either through water or air.
Grinding and brewing of coffee mark the end of coffee processing. Main importers of Colombian coffee include the United States of America, Germany, and France. However, Colombian coffee gets consumers from within Colombia as well (National Coffee Association USA).
Ideally, coffee in Colombia does exceptionally well in areas located between 1,200 and 1,800 meters over the sea level (Pro Export Colombia). Such attitudes offer maximum climatic conditions for coffee growing.
Coffee requires an average temperature ranging between 19 and 22 degrees centigrade for proper growth as well as rainfall ranging between 1,800 and 2,800 millimeters, well distributed annually (Pro Export Colombia).
Each tree of coffee requires approximately 120 millimeters of rain per month for it to grow well. Overall, humid air, light winds are also crucial to coffee growing. Sunshine required ranges between 1,600 and 2,000 hours in a year (Pro Export Colombia).
These prerequisites are in place in Colombia making it possible to harvest coffee throughout the year. The harvesting period is dived into the main harvest and the minor harvest.
Various factors influence coffee exports in Colombia as well as world coffee prices. Poor infrastructure and especially damaged roads affect coffee output in Colombia (Pro Export Colombia).
In addition, the location of the coffee belt in Colombia is susceptible to the destruction caused by El Nino and La Nina phenomena and it usually takes a while before exports go back to normal.
The Andes area has suffered earthquakes in the recent past and remains at risk yet this is where most of the coffee in Colombia comes from (Pro Export Colombia). On the world market, natural calamities as well as an imbalance between supply-demand lead to low prices.
Also, the presence of speculators influences the prices on the world market. Liberalization of trade in 1989 greatly affected and still affects the world market prices of coffee since there are no fixed prices and intermediaries exploit such a situation (Pro Export Colombia).
The government of Colombia is fully committed to assisting coffee farmers through sound policies and the president has communicated this on numerous occasions. The strikes by coffee farmers saw the government intervene and consequently solved their grievances.
For instance, the government of Manuel Santos promised to increase the subsidy from 60,000 pesos to 115, 000 per 125-kilogram bag of coffee (Beatrice and Stasha).
However, production and export figures in Colombia do not match the level of poverty among the Colombian coffee farmer due to unstable currency rates as well as lower prices of coffee in the world market. Small tracts of land belonging to small-scale farmers are not enough to sustain the farmers.
Beatrice, Judea and Lampert Stasha. Colombia’s Cafeteros take a stand. 2013. Web. 11 May 2013 <http://socialistworker.org/2013/03/04/colombia-cafeteros-take-a- stand>.
Equal Exchange. History of Coffee in Colombia. 2013. Web. 11 May 2013 <http://equalexchange.coop/history-of-coffee-in-colombia>.
National Coffee Association USA. Ten Steps to Coffee. 2013. Web. 11 May 2013 <http://www.ncausa.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=69>.
National Geographic. Major Coffee Producers. 2013. Web. 11 May 2013 <http://www.nationalgeographic.com/coffee/map.html>.
Pro Export Colombia. Climate and Geographic Location. 2013. Web. 11 May 2013 <http://www.colombia.travel/en/international-tourist/sightseeing-what-to- do/colombia-thematic-routes/coffee/climate-and-geographic-location>.
Pro Export Colombia. Production process of Colombian Coffee. 2013. Web. 11 May 2013 <http://www.colombia.travel/en/international-tourist/sightseeing-what-to- do/colombia-thematic-routes/coffee/production-process-of-colombian-coffee>.