If you are a Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee drinker, you may have noticed a few things about our beloved coffee. First, the price has gone up, and second, there is not much coffee available here in the US. Along with some other factors which we will discuss, in a few words it can be described as a Jamaican Blue Mountain Drought.
This all began back in October 2012 when Hurricane Sandy hit Jamaica in 2012. Since Reggie’s Roast Coffee is located in New Jersey, we are especially close to this tragedy, but being coffee Farmers in Jamaica, it hit Home to an even further degree. From WIKI – “In Jamaica, winds left 70% of residents without electricity, blew roofs off buildings, killed one, and caused about $100 million (2012 USD) in damage. After the storm became a tropical cyclone on October 22, the Government of Jamaica issued a tropical storm watch for the entire island. Early on October 23, the watch was replaced with a tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch was issued. In preparation of the storm, many residents stocked up on supplies and reinforced roofing material. Acting Prime Minister Peter Phillips urged people to take this storm seriously, and also to take care of their neighbors, especially the elderly, children, and disabled. Government officials shut down schools, government buildings, and the airport in Kingston on the day prior to the arrival of Sandy. Meanwhile, numerous and early curfews were put in place to protect residents, properties, and to prevent crime.
This also hit at harvest time for our coffee, which saw a near 20% crop loss for the 2012 Harvest. From the Jamaica Gleaner, Christopher Gentiles is quoted “We try not to be in the business of guesstimates. We think that based upon early feedback from farmers, the national crop damage would be no more than 15-20 per cent. There are some farmers who suffered 30-40 per cent crop damage, but the tree damage cannot be verified until we get verification later in November after a proper survey.”
The destruction continued into 2103 when the water left behind created a Coffee Leaf Rust issue from the excess moisture. Also from the Gleaner, “Rust infection usually builds up between September and November and peaks between December and March. On this occasion, the high humidity factor in the environment, due to the post-Hurricane Sandy rains and wind, as well as the reaping now underway is contributing to the movement of the spores within the farming community and has resulted in increased levels of the disease. The poor nutritional state of the farms is also making the coffee plants most vulnerable,” said the ministry and CIB in a joint public notice.
Now, lets bring in an economically resurgent economy in Japan who before 2008 consumed 80-85 % of Jamaica’s Blue Mountain Coffee. These premium buyers are now offering as much as 40% higher prices for these coveted coffee cherries which means to the highest bidder goes the coffee which was already at a decline in availability from the 2013-2014 crop. As we went into the 2014 harvest season, Jamaica was hit with a drought. From The Jamaica Information Service, there is a detail of the effects, which included water rations and food shortages, but slowed down growth, created crop loss and delayed harvest time as well. When the coffee cherries are lacking water, if they survive, they take longer to ripen which delays harvesting.
Now with Japan demanding and paying almost twice as what they were; this sees a coffee industry which is trying to revive itself now seeing higher offers, a shortening supply and a much higher demand with prices on both ends seeing a 40% increase. No pun intended, but when it rains, it pours; creating a Jamaican Blue Mountain Drought so to speak.
As Coffee farmers who understand the plight of the farmer, and roasters who are answering these questions every day, we feel Mother Natures effects of the Jamaican Blue Mountain Drought two fold. As you see, it’s not just one, but a three year combination of factors that has brought us to this point. Hopefully this brings a better understanding to our situation and answers any questions you may have had.
We will keep you posted on the situation with our Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee as well as suggesting some comparable single origin coffee selections as well.