Nicaragua mulls climate-chance resistant coffee

(iStock)
(iStock)

Managua - With climate change threatening crops in many parts of the world, Nicaragua is turning to a robust variety of coffee bean to protect one of its key exports.

The appropriately named robusta coffee comes from the Coffea canephora plant, which is being increasingly planted in the Central American country under government authorisation.

The sturdy variety is easier to care for, higher in caffeine, faster to produce fruit and more disease-resistant than the more popular Arabica sort Nicaragua traditionally grows - although it is of lower quality, fetching a lower price.

However, its advantages make it better suited to ride out climate change and bring benefits to smaller producers, industry groups say.

"Robusta coffee production has proven its profitability through its high productivity, low production costs and high potential," says Luis Chamorro, an executive with the Mercon group, which plans to plant the variety on 7 000 hectares it owns on the eastern side of the country.

Export revenues

But not everyone is convinced.

Some producers worry that the new focus on robusta could affect Arabica production and prestige.

"If we change to a variety that damages our coffee-growing sector and the prestige of quality, that would be an error we shouldn't make and it could cost us dearly," warns Leonel Lopez, a coffee farmer in the northern Nueva Segovia region.

The stakes are high for Nicaragua, a poor country that depends on its coffee sector, which brings in $400m in export revenues and employs hundreds of thousands of people.

However, a lengthy drought over the past two years and a blight that has affected most of the coffee plantations - ruining hundreds of smaller outfits - has prompted the diversification to robusta.


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