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The Coffee Industry in Honduras
It has only been in the last couple of years that Honduras based coffee growers started to produce specialty coffees. Even in the mid 2000s, the bulk of their production was aimed at the commodity market, and the country was seen as a low-priced exporter while many of their neighbours have focused on, and built up a reputation for, producing very high quality lots.
In recent years, however, coffee growers in the country have discovered the value of targeting a higher quality market. The country has the right conditions to do well in the specialty market – with most farms enjoying an altitude of more than 1000m, and the country also boasting fertile soils and microclimates that lend themselves towards quality coffees.
What lets the country down, however, is the relatively poor infrastructure in the country. Because of their focus on commodity lots, they took a long time to develop good processing procedures and quality control. This deterred a lot of the higher quality buyers from engaging with them.
In 2004, IHCAFE, the country’s coffee institute, set up a cupping school with the aim of both improving the coffee market and giving young people a chance to develop a career in the quality control area of the coffee industry. The institute is also offering a lot of help to farmers and to producers so that they can buy better processing equipment and improve the way that they handle their coffee.
There are six coffee growing regions, or “Denominaciones de Origen” in the country. They are Copan, Opalca, Marcala-Montecillos, El Paraiso, Comayagua and Agalta Tropical. The IHCAFE provides each region with a dedicated cupping lab and offers its services to growers in those regions for free. Within each region, there are micro regions which are designated based on the cup profile of the coffee.
The most popular coffee produced in Honduras is Catuai, but the country is also known for its Typica, Pacas and Bourbon. There are more than 100,000 families working in the coffee industry in the country, and about 95 percent of those families work on small-scale farms. The coffee is often sod as unprocessed cherries or wet parchment, so that it can be processed in bulk by mill owners or exporters. However, there is a growing movement towards specialty coffee, and around 20 percent of producers now offer dry parchment coffee that is sold at a premium. This percentage is likely to increase over the next few years as more producers learn the benefits of offering higher quality coffees direct to buyers.