Burundi is in trouble, always: Uncertain harvests, poverty, bad policy, and a poor international reputation a permanent crisis cycle.
That’s not new, as there always seems to be economic or political crisis here. From within the nation and without, there is a kind of resignation about this. As I write this now though, I see the current coffee harvest (2019-2020) will be very difficult.
The crop is very small. In some stations it is 30 – 40% less coffee. But I visited a couple stations that were 70 – 80% less coffee coming in than last year. This means less money to farmers, in a land where trees already have the lowest yield ofKgs cherry per tree, often under 2 Lbs.
This means less money for the wage laborers who come to stations for jobs hand sorting coffee. This means less foreign currency coming into the country, less to apply to health programs and education. Coffee is the largest cash crop here, and the lack of volume will hurt badly.
This happens at a time when American funding and investmentfor some programs is being reduced under the current US administration. The ones who hurt the most are farmers. They do grow subsistence crops and other agriculture they can trade locally. Thankfully those crops seem okay this year, and there is food. But cash is needed to maintain homes and roofs, buy livestock as a source of milk, meat and manure, pay school fees for their children.
It’s difficult to travel in a beautiful place, connecting with people over the coffee harvest, and know that so much more needs to be done here. Yes, pay better for coffee. And yes we do. But it takes government and domestic and international partners to make concerted change. This presentation is pretty shallow in some regards but we will be presenting thoughts on Burundi in the context of the global market of coffee in a discussion next week, and will make it available on our youtube too.
One thing I don’t discuss here, or anywhere, to the extent it should be stated: Burundi coffee can be wonderful. Wet-processed coffees are world class, balanced, bright, clean, sweet, complex. These are the coffees I take home on the weekend.
They are a perfect coffee to focus on when the Centrals, like Guatemala, are getting long in the tooth, since the season runs counter to Central America. They should be celebrated and valued on cup quality beyond where they are currently, which only makes the disparity between price, production, and value more extreme… -Thompson May 2019