If you have been following us over the past two years, you already know how difficult the farming conditions in Jamaica have been. As the demand lessened back in 2009-2010, farmers abandoned their fields which left them uncleaned after harvest; creating a berry borer problem for the 2011-2012 crop. Then just as the 2012 harvest season was about to begin, Hurricane Sandy took nearly 15-20% of an already reduced crop. Thanks to her excess moisture the 2013-2014 crop was further reduced by nearly 20% due to coffee leaf rust disease which slows down the coffee plants production and may take years to control and eradicate. All this accompanied by a drought in 2014 and the increased demand with nearly triple the price per box of cherries being paid to the farmers, begs to question the future of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee.
Last month, according to Mavis Bank, there was nearly $200 million worth of damages done to farms due to fire, not a promising sign to the beginning of a new crop season. Most important, we understand no lives were lost. The Farming community, despite the fact Jamaica is at a 30 year low in coffee production, is growing due to the increased prices being paid for coffee cherries, and the farmers being paid more promptly for their cherries.
The future of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee does look very promising from a coffee farmer’s perspective in that there is now hopefully no where to go but up from this low point in production. With the prospect for higher wages, there are farms being rejuvenated and new trees being planted all throughout the Blue Mountains. However, with agriculture, must come patience as coffee trees can take up to five years to produce quality cherries. It is said that with proper, consistent irrigation, a tree can produce quality cherries in three years. However being that most farmers are small and may not be able to afford the investment in equipment, the majority of plants will need a full five years.
Once planted at the proper elevations of 2500-5000 above sea level after the years of waiting, comes the strict guidelines set forth by The Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica. Each hand picked cherry undergoes two float tests to separate the ripe from unripe cherries; only the ripe ones will float, then the processing will begin. The cherries are pulped, hulled, dried, and set to rest for up to 30 days before inspection by the C.I.B. Once the beans are hand sorted, sized, and cupped only then can they be certified as Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee that can be exported.
As you can see this is a time consuming a strictly regulated process, and concerning the future of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee, we also must factor in the large demand from Japan who as a nation, purchases 80-85% of the exportable JBM Coffee. In years past before their economy plunged, Japan would pre-pay for their share of JBM Coffee, holding a hand over the economics of the Jamaican Coffee industry. However as they recovered, we are now seeing top dollar being received from Japan, but the question remains as to how much of a hold they can gain.
Also, the face of the processing industry is changing as well with smaller processors doing some of the work the larger processors once did. Wallenford, Mavis Bank, and Clydesdale are still among the top in volume, but with new owners taking over in some instances, the business model will change as well. Not to speculate one way or the other, it’s just the course of business when hands change; which leaves this as another element that will shape the future of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee.
Until we see crops begin to turn volume, and the leaf rust subsides, the future of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee will be as it is today; difficult to source and carrying a higher price due to the very low supply and even higher demand. Being Coffee Farmers, Reggie’s Roast Coffee will work with our hands in the soil and the sun on our backs to bring you “Absolutely the Best Coffee in The World”!