Lessons from Honduras (Part 11)

Every time I visit a country where coffee is grown I am struck by the resilience of those at the very beginning of the coffee journey. You can’t help but have enormous respect for the extraordinary effort that is made to achieve the quality of the coffee that we have the enormous pleasure of consuming. Thankfully Honduras is a coffee drinking nation and can enjoy some of the fruits of their labour.

Honduras is inherently a “Narco state”. In a piece entitled “How Crime & Corruption in Honduras Fuel Migration” Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Sonia Nazario was interviewed by the Havana Times and made the following comments.

“We can go back a hundred years with United Fruit and dominance of these countries by U.S. companies and replacing presidents that weren’t going to be good for U.S. businesses, and more recently, in 2009, with a coup, where many countries in Latin America and international organizations said, “ Let’s not allow this to happen.” In 2017, when the current president was re-elected in very, very dubious circumstances, other countries called for a re-election, and the United States said, basically, “We’re good with this.” And so, I think the U.S. needs to take a hard look at its support of Juan Orlando Hernández, given the fact that the rot is starting at the top, and given the fact that people will keep surging out of Honduras until this corruption is addressed”

Like many countries around the globe Honduras has immense natural resources. The deepest water port in Central America; an extraordinary heritage; a climate conducive to tourism; agricultural resources that could be the envy of Latin America. Yet many now try their luck emigrating north. The dream on their cell phone too good to pass up.

Co-operatives like COCAFELOL and CAPUCAS are trying in the face of huge odds to get their members to produce world class coffee. Coffee to which serious value can be added not only with the Fairtrade seal but also turning to organic production. But here again they face massive pressure from the global agrochemical companies and their “science” versus the fledgling local business of locally produced organic fertilizer. The battle for hearts and minds is an on-going one.  

On top of this we have the global issue of climate change. The crop this year is 25%-30% down on last year. This may be a temporary issue, however a warmer climate meant that the coffee cropped earlier than normal and by the time the pickers arrived from Guatemala a good deal of coffee had been lost.

The issues are almost overwhelming yet they are the same in country after country around the globe. If we ignore them they will in the end overwhelm us all. These are 21st century problems and we need 21st century solutions. Right now the whole commodity trading system is broken. It cannot be right that the New York “C” trades at a level that is below the cost of production for the vast majority of producers. We have to get rid of the concept of the anonymous producer and start treating them like human beings.

Doing things on a local scale in Honduras means that farmers have skin in the game. If they can see the environment around them improve and in turn get better prices for their produce they are less likely to leave their homes. That though means that we have to stick to our side of the bargain and pay a fair price for that which they produce. That can be tough for households with limited budgets but if we consume better produce, we need less and we in turn become more resilient. Of course the loser is big Pharma and those who invest in businesses wanting us to consume more pills.

The status quo has been broken for some time now Honduras could be that light at the end of the tunnel.

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