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Is The Aroma Fading?
One of the Piura Andes' most significant crops is experiencing a continous falling.

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A coffee plantation in  Eliseo Córdova Portocarrero's property in Maray Town, Lalaquiz District, Peru. His crop is promoted internationally by Progreso NGO, formerly known as Pidecafé.
Photo by Mary Grace Cunya / Progreso.

CANCHAQUE, Peru - The bus that goes up to Huancabamba City still stops in Palambla to have lunch if climbs up or santa Rosa if goes down, and during the minutes awaiting for the doors of the vehicle to get open again, there is still some time to walk around and to see some stuff the locals offer on sale to the travelers.

Among oranges and chirimoyas, what follows to pay the attention are those sealed bags with a milled very black brown grain, those are still possible to approach to the nose for  detecting part of the aroma - coffee.

144 km or 89,1 miles away to the Wesst, in Castilla, Piura Metro Area, it is also possible to find some places on Tacna Street where the toasted and milled grain is sold informally. Some people send it in packages to their relatives in Lima City, where the hot beverage is appreciated around the year, but especially in cold and wet winter season.

The mostly cropped variety in Piura, as well as in most of the Occidental Hemisphere, is  the Arabic coffee (Coffea arabica), coming from Ethiopia and Yemen (Arabic Peninsula), where is supposed it was domesticated 20 centuries ago.

However, what could be a part of a nostalgic advertising campaign  blanches before the fact that Canchaque's coffee production has decreased running the years.

even the grain in its organic variety means 4/5 parts of Canchaque [pronounce "Kanchahkeh] District (which surface is 306,41 sq km or 190,4 sq mi or a little more than 1% of Piura Region territory) agricultural offer,  the production  had fallen  75% in 2014compared to 3000-4000 tons gotten between 1970 and 1990.

The falling trend seems to affect to all countries producing coffee for exportation,and causes also seem to be similar.

Then Piura Region's social development manager Ángel García Zavalú said three years ago to the media that the incorrect agronomic management and  climate change were the causes of the decrease but not separated.

In fact, it seems the coffee farmers did not react on time before the variations of  the weather, what broke out yellow rust, and cock eye plague in less proportion, El Regional de Piura reported.

The yellow rust, the major cause of decreasing to 75%  of Canchaque's coffee production, is a disease consistent in a yellow or orange blot  injuring the mature leaves of the plants, removing them down, what mainly appear  when average temmperature is  17°C or 63°F during periods of continous rains.  It can be prevented treating the terrain before the cropping, but that step was apparently ignored.

Although beginning this century Turmalina Mine, located 1000 meters or 3280 feet above Canchaque Town in Huando Mount, was seen suspiciously, its tailings don't appear neither remotely as the cause  of the decrease.

What about drinking a cup of coffee at Mr Leigh in Piura City? Many clients here don't suspect the situation of the grain just a hundred miles away.
Photo by César Leigh/Leigh Perú.

The first among the last
Until June 2016, Piura Region had the worst performance in coffee production, -22,1%, followed by ucayali (Peruvian Central Eastern) with  -11,4% and Pasco (Peruvian Central) with  -5%, according to Peru's National Institute for Statistics and Informatic (INEI as in Spanish) revealed in August last year.

"This crop's production  was increased in San Martín [Peruvian Central Northern] (56,4%), Junín [Peruvian Central] (16,0%), and Cajamarca [Peruvian Central Northwestern] Regions (9,2%), which contributed 67,2% to this grain's total production," INEI reported.

The entity exposed that Peruvian production of coffee grew up from 64298 tons in June 2015 to 75555 tons in June 2016, 17,5% in green in other words, "due to favorable weather in Northern Jungle that allowed  the good development of the crop."

Fair Trade
Despite its origin in the Middle East, the main producers of coffee variety, that Peru also produces, are Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia and Honduras. Brazil is the second world consumer below the U.S. and above the Nordic countries.

However, or at least until 2009, Peru led the coffee world production targeted specifically to fair trade market, and organic coffee to be more accurate. It is estimated that one among five coffee consumers in England  prefers what comes from fair trade.

Canchaque's coffee, especially the organic, also has  the U.S. as its main market followed by Europe, although consumers are spotted mainly in Benelux.

Based upon those results, Piura's Coffee Farmers Center (Cepicafé as in Spanish) reinforced in 2009 an organic products' offer  led by coffee as a response to the crisis and recession  blaming the U.S.,  Europe and Japan. Cepicafé joins  90 local grassroot organizations and 6600 farmers.

According to organization's co-manager Santiago Paz López, its buyers are in Europe, Oceania, Canada and the U.S. (where is required by Equal Exchange): "They're selective clients, that means they don't buy to any other exporter even if it's about a farmers organization signing for fair trade."

The paradoxical of the scheme is Cepicafé  depends on how the grain  performs at New York Stock Exchange, and numbers also could seem to be in red.

After marking  US$ 170 per  every 100 pounds  as a peak, it fell until US$ 110 in 2009. The low price accepted by coffee sales firms, Cepicafé included, is US$ 125 plus a  US$ 10 premium  for regular varieties and a US$ 20 additional in case of organic varieties. Below US$ 135 or US$ 155 according to the variety, there's no deal.

Although sugarcane is winning land, it's still possible to find a very tasty coffee in Montero District, Peru, coming from a plantation like this.
Photo by Comunicaciones Piura.

Local competitors and alternatives
But if it goes losing, how much convenient is it for satisfying the market?  In Lalaquiz [pronounce "Lalakees"] District, Canchaque's western neighbor,  decided not to feel sorry and working to avoid the mistakes of Region's referent.  CAES  crops Arabic coffee at 1100 meters or 3608 feet altitude, beneath shadow  and inside an agri-forest model.

As a reference, Canchaque District's average altitude is 1135 meters or 3723 feet.

"It's different in the world because of its organoleptic characteristics of fine and delicate aroma, flavor and good consistence, proper like highland coffees," they assure on their website promising 95%  is Arabic variety  and rust-proof too.

"Through the work  of nurseries  and crop lots renovation, it is being studied the adaptation of  improved varieties  for increasing our production capability," they add.

In Ayabaca Province, Jililí [pronounce "Heelilee"] and Montero Districts also produce coffee. In fact, they had together about 10 sq km or 6,2 sq mi of plantations, although they recently  decided to bet more of sugarcane,  despite their leaders said to Radio Cutivalú that the coffee is much profittable.

It is still unknown if Canchaque's coffee could stop its falling because all will depend on farmers reaction.  At the moment, Piura regional Government only had the political decision to recognize the district as the grain's regional capital in 2012 by the 239 Regional Order. The rest? It also seems that will depend on the consumer.

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