The Conundrum of Costa Rican Coffee / by Amanda Jones

It’s no secret that the export and trade of coffee is a part of the global market in commodities. Dependent upon international flows of trade and the fluctuations in prices for oil and energy, things are never stable when it comes to coffee.

One country which is grappling with these changes is Costa Rica, where this month’s single origin is sourced from. Due to coffee being largely grown in developing countries, and then largely consumed in developed countries, prices are kept low for consumers due to low costs at the most labour intensive link in the chain, harvesting.

Costa Rica, however, is one of the most economically successful countries in the Americas, known for its political stability and social harmony. Since 1948, Costa Rica has not maintained a standing army, and Costa Rica has one of the most educated populations in the Americas.

This economic success leads to high wages and a strong currency as foreign companies seek to invest in Costa Rica. This means that coffee from Costa Rica is not as economically competitive as the coffee from some of its neighbours, despite the country producing some of the best coffee in the world. Located between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean, and with an undulating topography, Costa Rica has the perfect natural conditions for high quality coffee, and its coffee has been globally recognised as having a particularly high value. So if we want to keep enjoying Costa Rican coffee, how can we have farmers receiving an equitable return on their crop?

One solution to this conundrum is the importation of low-wage labour. This has occurred in Costa Rica, and workers travel from Nicaragua to the plantations of Costa Rica to work on the farms. This solution is blind to what crop is being harvested, and other export crops such as sugar cane, pineapples, oranges and melons also compete for these low wages workers. In addition, the Costa Rican government has instituted policies to limit the inflow of migrant workers, both to protect the jobs of locals and to limit the exploitation of migrants.

The alternative solution is to sell this premium coffee at a slightly higher price. Understanding the value of the coffee that is produced in Costa Rica and sharing that with consumers is what we are attempting to do with this month’s single origin. Ensuring that farmers receive a fair return on their investment, while providing an exceptional cup is what goes into a great single origin, and this month is no exception. BUY NOW