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Nicaragua Focuses on Climate-change Resistant Coffee

19:00 EST 20 Feb 2017 | Meridian Institute

In an effort to address the effects of climate change on coffee crops, the country of Nicaragua is turning to the robusta coffee variety as one way to protect one of its key exports. Robusta coffee, which is easier to care for, higher in caffeine, faster to produce fruit and more disease-resistant than the more popular Arabica variety, could be better suited to ride out climate change and support smallholder coffee growers. The robusta bean, which fetches a lower price, is often mixed with other varieties, as it is more bitter and acidic. But, says Luis Chamorro, an executive with the Mercon group, which plans to plant Robusta coffee on 7,000 hectares of its land, "Robusta coffee production has proven its profitability through its high productivity, low production costs and high potential.” Not everyone is convinced, however, and the stakes are high. Nicaragua depends on its coffee sector, which brings in US$400 million in export revenues and employs hundreds of thousands of people. "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," said Leonel Lopez, a coffee farmer. Still, the government continues to authorize the planting of Robusta coffee, while ensuring the plants are planted at least 30 kilometers from any Arabica plants. Michael Healy, the president of the UPANIC farmers' association, said, "We believe both varieties can exist alongside each other, as already happens in Brazil and in Vietnam.”

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