At the time of writing, Honduras’ 2020/21 coffee harvest is reaching its peak. The events of the last 12 months have had a huge impact on the coffee supply chain in the country; as such, we spoke with IHCAFE to learn more about the challenges Honduras is facing, and how the organisation is supporting farmers in these unprecedented times.
Read our interview with Karla Calidonio, the Head of Marketing for IHCAFÉ, to learn more.
WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT HONDURAN COFFEE?
Honduran coffee is unique and diverse, much like how the people of Honduras are at once noble, entrepreneurial, innovative, and creative.
Coffee in Honduras brings with it ancestral and cultural diversity, and a joy, dedication, and passion for coffee production, all of which have been passed down from generation to generation.
The range of climatic and elevational diversity in the mountains where our coffee is grown, combined with the fact that we are nestled between two oceans, provides unique conditions for the production of exquisite and totally unique coffee.
Additionally, on the production side, Honduran coffee is environmentally responsible. It is mostly grown under shade, which protects water availability, soil integrity, and the natural flora and fauna of producing regions (in particular offering shelter to migratory birds).
WHAT ARE IHCAFE’S MAIN GOALS FOR 2021?
IHCAFE’s general aim is to promote the socioeconomic profitability of Honduran coffee producers. We work towards making the agroindustrial coffee chain more profitable in a sustainable way.
We do so in a number of ways: by implementing eco-friendly, cutting-edge technologies, delivering high-quality coffee to our clients, deploying effective promotional programs, and supporting farmers to diversify their income streams.
IHCAFE has also created protocols for biosecurity that minimize the spread of Covid-19 on coffee farms. The goal for IHCAFE and the National Coffee Fundis to protect the lives and health of coffee-producing families and the pickers who support them during harvest.
These Covid-19 protocols have been in place since the beginning of the harvest season, under the supervision of designated committee members and with the support of union leaders, IHCAFE’s technical staff, healthcare workers, local governments, national police force, and others.
Honduran coffee producers have won major battles in a range of different circumstances; this year will be more about fighting back against Covid-19.
WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT FROM THE 2021 HARVEST IN HONDURAS?
In spite of the huge challenges that resulted from the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact of hurricanes Eta and Iota, our producers have made their best efforts to maintain quality on the farm. IHCAFE complemented producers’ hard work with genetic improvements focused on developing disease-resistant varieties with economic value.
We’ve been also working on evaluating products and new strategies to control leaf rust and coffee borer beetles. In addition to this, we have dedicated research to identifying the life cycle of the Indian coffee cricket and developing a strategy to control it, as it has become a rapidly-growing plague in coffee production.
TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THE MAIN ADVANCES IN THE HONDURAN COFFEE SECTOR IN THE LAST 5 YEARS.
IHCAFE is a leading coffee institution in the field of establishing national coffee policies. In 2020, we celebrated our 50th anniversary; today, our research and development development is led by six centers dedicated to developing and testing technologies for coffee production.
Another important strength is sharing knowledge through the Escuela Superior del Café (ESCAFE) with academic training programs for every actor in the coffee supply chain; ESCAFE programs have a particular focus on producers and their children.
Honduras was also selected as the headquarters of the Latin American Breeding Hub. This program for regional improvement will begin with the protection, evaluation, and selection of World Coffee Research’s core collection, consisting of 98 wild accessions from Ethiopia. These make up for almost 90% of coffee’s known genetic diversity in the region’s germplasm banks.
HOW DOES IHCAFE ASSIST PRODUCERS? WHAT KIND OF TECHNICAL SUPPORT DOES THE ORGANIZATION PROVIDE?
In response to the challenges we face, IHCAFE has led a number of projects to support coffee farmers. These include the Bono Cafetalero, a project coordinated with the Government of Honduras that supports more than 91,000 small to medium-sized producers.
Through the Bono Cafetalero, these farmers received fertilizer deliveries to maintain their production units and nourish coffee-producing land more widely. Ultimately, this has a positive effect, as it reduces production costs and improves farm productivity.
On the other hand, technical management is considered a central pillar of IHCAFE; we are responsible for researching, developing, and implementing technology to solve the main problems that Honduran coffee producers face. Alongside this, we provide assistance to tackle different challenges at various steps along the coffee supply chain.
Current areas of focus are genetic improvement, agronomy, soil and nutrition, integral plague management, epidemiology, and coffee processing. In addition, we’re also working on an agroforestry, environment, and climate change program led by a team of nine agroforestry engineers.
Another important service is the regionally-recognized Coffee Quality Control Lab. The lab was opened in July 2008, and began implementing a quality management system under the ISO 17025:2005 system.
The lab’s accreditation is formal proof of technical competence, which supports it to execute specific tasks based on internationally accepted criteria. Today, it is a great resource for coffee exporters that provides training, studies, and other resources with the aim of sharing knowledge.
The lab is also staffed by a number of Q graders and AST trainers. Furthermore, it is recognized as an SCA campus, equipping it to be a branch of the Central American Barista Academy.
Thanks to this impressive list of capabilities, the Coffee Quality Control Lab is able to provide technical support during events such as the Cup of Excellence, trade shows, international visits, and regional competitions.