• QA 066
    Please provide some insight in the production, shipping and distribution of Guatemalan coffee for North America, particularly Canada.
    What is involved in the production of coffee in Guatemala from production to shipping and distribution? How does it get to North America, specifically Canada?
    Asked by:
    Interested party - Canada

    Guatemala is an arabica producer although a very small amount of robusta is grown on the Pacific coast.

    The main coffee areas are spread over most of the south where several mountain ranges extend from the Andes and provide ideal ecological conditions for the production of high-grown arabica.  The total area under coffee is approximately 270,000 hectares. Production peaked at 5.2 million bags in 1999 but has since fallen due to the coffee crisis and related factors. Current production is showing signs of recovery and for 2005/06 is estimated at around 3,5-3,6 million bags. Small farmers account for approximately 30% of total output - the other 70% originates from medium and large-scale farms.

    The coffee industry is well organized with Anacafé (www.anacafe.org), a producers' association, playing a major role in the country's coffee affairs. Anacafé provides a range of services to its members who fund it through export levies. Guatemala's coffee industry has always been free and competitive, except for periods when the ICO's quota system was in force. However, those restrictions were abolished as soon as that system ceased to operate.

    Export classification is based on altitude:

    Strictly Hard Bean Regional Coffees = grown at 1,300 - 2,000 metres.  These are regional brands, each with its own distinguishable characteristics and historic reputation. Brands such as Antigua Classic are well known.

    Other export classifications are:
    - Strictly Hard Bean (SHB) = grown above 1,400 metres;
    - Hard Bean = 1,200 -1,400 m;
    - Semi-Hard Bean = 1,100 - 1,200 m;
    - Extra Prime Washed = 900 - 1,100 m; 
    - Prime Washed = below 900 m.

    Almost the entire production is wet processed (see 11.01.02 for more on wet processing itself), usually on the farms themselves. The wet mills are either owned by the farmers themselves, or by local intermediaries, exporters and cooperatives.

    Large and medium producers do their own wet milling and sell parchment coffee directly to exporters although an increasing number today export their coffee themselves, under their own name or mark. The domestic market is quite competitive with many buyers and exporters competing to obtain coffee for export that they in turn market directly overseas.

    In calendar year 2004 Canada imported about 280,000 bags of Guatemalan coffee but we cannot say whether all of this was purchased directly. It is entirely possible that a proportion came through United States importers. Thus the likely flow of Guatemalan coffee into Canada is from Guatemalan exporters through Canadian and US importers/traders to Canadian roasters. There appear to be no direct imports of any roasted Guatemalan coffee but some Guatemalan coffee may also come in as R&G imports from the United States.

    Posted 21 December 2005

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