Peru is the ninth largest coffee producer in the world, and the third largest in South America. Most of Peru’s coffee farms are less than 2-3 hectares in size, and spread across three main growing areas – these are usually defined as North (Amazonas, Cajamarca, San Martin), Central (Junin) and South (Cusco, Ayacucho and Puno). These regions all lie on the eastern slopes of the Andes, where they benefit most from elevation and favourable climatic conditions at altitudes between 900-1800 masl.
Whilst conditions are optimal for the production of good quality coffee, there are significant challenges in relation to farm’s geographic isolation, the lack of adequate processing facilities and volatility in price. For example, during the harvest season between April and September, smallholders use hand pulpers at micro-milling stations before transporting their coffee, often on foot over difficult terrain, for anywhere between thirty minutes and eight hours to reach their nearest town plaza, where the coffee is then traded and transported onwards. Sometimes there is only one buyer or co-op in town, which often means producers are forced to accept the price they are given. Coffees are also sometimes bought and blended en route to export. Furthermore, the huge distances between washing stations in remote areas and the dry mills, prior to export, often has negative effects on the final quality of the producer’s coffee. The remote location of coffee requires active support to all areas of the supply chain and not just the standard ‘one up, one down’ approach where interactions are only between the previous and next participants.
Fair Trade and organic coffees make up a large proportion of Peru’s annual coffee exports. Political instability and the prominence of guerilla activity and coca production in Peru in past decades left a vacuum for the formation of non-government organisations like Fair Trade, whose cooperatives have impacted positively on the country’s coffee production, both in terms of quantity and quality. Running parallel to FT co-ops are several producer organisations, such as Centrocafe, who have bought greater stability, technical assistance, training and access to loans. It is estimated that around a quarter of Peru’s 110,000 coffee farmers are now members of such co-ops and more land is being devoted to growing coffee, now standing at around 95,000 hectares throughout the country. Falcon works throughout Peru’s main coffee regions with more than 20 producer groups, representing more than 30,000 farmers and their families.