Despite the constraints posed by COVID-19, family farmers won’t let the pandemic ruin their emerging coffee business.
They were just getting on their feet when the pandemic hit.
Hector Frias is a Panamanian farmer who heads an association of coffee producers in Los Santos Province, a region in the central part of the country. Unlike other regions in Panama famous for Geisha coffee , this part of the country is not known for coffee production. With water scarce and land degraded, many coffee plantations in Los Santos had been abandoned for decades when Hector and other producers decided to restart this activity with the help of Panama’s Ministry of Agricultural Development and FAO.
After two years of training and technical assistance, Hector and his partners had finally managed to begin production, growing the coffee plants to sell to other producers. They obtained legal status for their association and were reproducing seedlings when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“This year we had started with more strength than ever in our association, but the coronavirus interrupted everything because, due to quarantine measures, we cannot meet,” Hector explained.
With the enormous difficulties that the pandemic poses, Hector could have given up, but instead he chose to go ahead and keep caring for the 13 000 coffee plant seedling that his association had already sprouted. With the help of two other farmers, he went to sell these ready-to-plant seedlings in this new context of the pandemic: “We work at a safe distance, taking all precautions,” he said.
Movements in the country had been restricted to two hours per day, greatly limiting their ability to sell these seedlings to other farmers interested in producing coffee.
“If the pandemic continues, we will contact them [buyers] by cell phone, or we will look for alternatives so that they can have access to these seedlings. We have great faith in our coffee and believe that its production will help us to overcome this crisis,” he added.