The Coffee Buyer’s Guide to Colombia

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CBGC Social and Economic Aspects

CBGC 4.03 Economic Outlook

The past few years have been challenging for Colombian coffee producers. Adverse weather conditions, rapidly increasing costs of labour and inputs, and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have all put pressure on growers. Production declined from more than 14 million bags in 2019/20 to an estimated 11.8 million bags in 2021/22  (USDA 2022). The increase in coffee prices during 2022 has only partially offset these challenges, and Colombian producers remain vulnerable to volatile prices.

While there has been an overall increase in production over the past decade, this increase needs to be understood in context. After recovering from the coffee price crisis of the 1990s, Colombian coffee production was stable for several years, at around 12 million bags per year — until disaster struck in 2008.

Farmers, faced with reduced incomes due to high fertiliser prices and a strong peso, had been unable to invest in maintaining their coffee plantations. Subpar maintenance combined with heavy rains created the perfect environment for leaf rust to attack. At the time, only around half of Colombia’s coffee-producing area was planted with rust-resistant varieties. The traditional varieties were hit hard. Over the next few years, production declined to less than 8 million bags per year, the country’s lowest level for 35 years (USDA 2010).

Sources: USDA 2018, USDA 2022, USDA 2022

Faced with this dramatic drop in production, the FNC accelerated its efforts to encourage growers to replant their fields with more productive, rust-resistant varieties such as Colombia and Castillo. The campaign was a success, and production almost doubled between 2010 and 2015.

In recent years, however, the pace of replanting has slowed and production has again begun to decline (Salazar Castellanos 2023). A prolonged La Niña has meant that producers have faced cloudy, wet conditions for several years, with rainfall up to 40% higher than average in some regions (USDA 2022).