By TBY | Dominican Republic | Feb 04, 2015
On the eastern part of Hispaniola Island each day starts with that strong coffee aroma. Local offices do not open their doors before preparing the black stimulant.
Dominican coffee is grown in the highlands of the Cordillera Central, Barahona, Cibao, and Cibao Altura, in addition to Sierra de Neyba and Valdesia. The coffee grows at between 400msl and 1,500msl. Given the diversity of the Dominican Republic’s microclimates and topography, coffee is being picked virtually year-round, depending on the region, although the peak harvest takes place between November and May. Most of the 50,000 Dominican coffee producers are small-scale farmers. According to ADOEXPO, 92% of them cultivate the coffee beans in areas smaller than three hectares. The majority (98%) of Dominican coffee is shade-grown, often under a canopy of pine, macadamia, and guava trees.
Thanks to the Dominican coffee’s exceptional quality as well as the country’s strategic geographic location, the Dominican Republic has become a quintessential provider of coffee to other Caribbean islands where coffee is not cultivated. Besides that, the country exports small amounts to more distant nations, such as Japan, Canada, the United States, Italy, Germany, and France.
For more than a decade, the Dominican Republic’s coffee industry has been supported by the Dominican Coffee Council (CODOCAFE). Founded in 2000, with the aim of planning, implementing and executing the industry development policy, CODOCAFE represents the interests of the coffee growers. Over the past 14 years, the Council has launched several programs supporting the development of the coffee industry and the improvement of farmers’ livelihood.
FIGHTING THE RUST
The Dominican Republic’s coffee industry has recently been blighted by coffee rust, resulting in huge financial losses. The South has been the most affected, with infestation varying between 17% and 47%, followed by the Cibao with an infestation rate of between 9.7% and 16.4%. In response to the alarming situation, controlling the disease became CODOCAFE’s chief priority. The Council has signed an agreement with the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INDRHI) to monitor the situation. In the words of José Fermín Núñez, CODOCAFE’s executive director, “CODOCAFE implemented an Early Warning Program in coordination with the Bureau of Meteorology and the support of the Organization for Food and Agriculture (FAO).” Mr. Núñez informed TBY of 223 meteorological stations located in rural areas throughout the Dominican Republic. “Through them we get information about the climate that favors the growth and progression of the disease, allowing us to monitor the levels of incidents and make recommendations for treatments to reduce and eliminate the fungus affecting plantations simultaneously.”
The coffee industry has deep social value, contributing to the conservation of the environment, as well as sustaining 45,000 Dominican families, who according to Rufino Herrera Puello, the president of the Dominican Coffee Confederation (Concafed), depend on it for their living. But even though Dominican farmers produce between 350,000 and 500,000 bags of coffee per year, currently, less than 20% of this volume is exported. This is partly because of high domestic consumption reaching almost 3kg per capita, as well as decreased production due to coffee rust. But despite recently lost share in the international market, the Dominican Republic retains enormous export potential due to its exceptional coffee quality and numerous free trade agreements providing the country with privileged market access to the US, EU, Central America, and the Caribbean.