Honduras - Gangs, Violence and Coffee (Part 1)

Having abstained in 2019 from visiting a coffee origin, I’m pleased to announce that my coffee adventures will re-commence in 2020 with a visit in February to Honduras.

When I first spoke about this most people had no idea where Honduras is located and I would probably have been the same if it weren’t for the fact that I was a philatelist (stamp collector) in my youth. Yes, there was a time before emails when people used to write to each other and those big red shiny things called post boxes were used for letter collections rather than Amazon package returns.

The great thing about collecting stamps was that it made you check out where these countries with strange sounding names were situated on the world map. The stamps I had came from “British Honduras” which is now Belize, just to the north east of Honduras in Central America.

Honduras is bordered to the north by Guatemala, to the west by El Salvador and to the south by Nicaragua.

Honduras was first sighted by Europeans when Christopher Columbus arrived at the Bay Islands on 30 July 1502. Columbus named the country Honduras ("depths") for the deep waters off its coast and in January 1524, Hernán Cortés directed captain Cristóbal de Olid to establish a colony in Honduras and in the process wiped out the indiginous Maya people. Plus ça change!

Coffee it appears was introduced in the 18th century, and by the mid 19th century it was widely available. However, the dominant export crop in the early 20th century had been bananas.

Honduras, like so many countries in the coffee growing belt around the world, has suffered its fair share of economic, environmental and political disasters. Hurricane Mitch in 1998 devastated the economy and caused over U$2 billion worth of damage and “set the country back 50 years”.

In 2016, according to official data, more than 66% of the population lived in poverty. In rural areas, approximately 1 out of 5 Hondurans live in extreme poverty, or on less than US$1.90 per day.

The country has been plagued with gang violence, most of which is connected to drugs being exported to the United States. In 2016 it had one of the highest murder rates in the world. As a result, there has been a huge exodus of young people, mostly towards USA.

Today things are looking up. Honduras has registered the second highest economic growth rates in Central America, only behind Panama. The country’s GDP growth reached 4.8% in 2017 and 3.7% in 2018 (World Bank report 2019). Social inequality though remains high as does gang violence.

Coffee is making some progress. Historically Honduras has grown “commodity” coffee and is the largest coffee producing country in Central America, just ahead of Guatemala. However we’re starting to see some extraordinary specialty coffees making an appearance.

Another adventure beckons and hopefully it won’t be long before you, our coffee loving customers will enjoy the fruits of this extraordinary country here in Jersey.

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