Coffee is no longer “the golden grain” in El Salvador

By José Eduardo Cubías Colorado

The Coffee Association of El Salvador (Acafesal) projects a drastic drop in coffee production in this country due to the impact of rust (coffee plague) and the lack of fertilization of coffee plantations.

“El Salvador could have a production of 300 one thousand quintals of coffee for the harvest 2020-2021 and it would become the lowest in the history of Salvadoran coffee”, He said Omar Flores Hidalgo, President of said union.

In a state of alert, El Salvador is the country that produces the least coffee in the Central American region.

We deduce that the cultivation of coffee no longer offers the profitability of yesteryear, when it became an agro-export monoculture of the nascent landed oligarchy, that took advantage of the good prices of grain in the international market, and on which the country's economy depended.

But the introduction of coffee to El Salvador, also meant, an acceleration in the process of concentration of land ownership, because the cultivation required large and appropriate tracts of land. In addition, investors were needed in the medium term, because coffee is a permanent crop that is planted and begins to produce after four years.

It would be difficult for indigenous communities to have the economic and technological capacity to implement, at the national level, coffee cultivation. This is a defense of various theorists of the Liberal Reform of 1881, that expropriated communal and ejidal lands, granting them at a given price to the landowners of the nascent coffee oligarchy. This is a dark note in the history of coffee in El Salvador.

After the signing of the Peace Accords, there were attempts to reactivate this culture, that needed a strong investment to achieve the profitability of before the war, since coffee prices fell considerably as new producing countries emerged, plus the persistence of rust and the high interest rates of the accoutrements to finance coffee production, that stopped being the grain of gold.