San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Sustainable coffee opens markets for small producers in Costa Rica's capital

A group of 14 families from the canton of Desamparados, south of San José, are producing coffee in a new processing center, or beneficio, using sustainable procedures that have attracted them buyers from Japan, Taiwan, Switzerland, Australia and the United States.

The group created the Farmers Association of La Violeta de Desamparados (AGRIVID), and their processing involves environmentally friendly practices that allow them, for example, to use only 8 liters of water to process a 46-kilogram coffee sack.

“Traditional methods used by larger beneficios could take up to a thousand liters per sack,” AGRIVID member Gilbert Núñez said.

The group is growing various coffee varieties at 1,400-1,600 meters above sea level.

“Ours is not a large quantity operation, but very selective with lots of quality coffee, which allows us to place our coffee at very good prices both in domestic and international markets” Núñez added.

AGRIVID members launched their business in 2002, when two of the biggest beneficios in the area closed due to a severe decrease in international coffee prices.

Members then started an even smaller operation that involved taking coffee to beneficios in the area, which meant high production costs for transportation, extra staff, and time spent traveling.

The new center was inaugurated last weekend and was built with a ₡10 million ($20,000) donation by the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry.

In addition, members designed a water-disposal method that processes the liquid and makes it apt for irrigating coffee plantations.

Coffee pulp also is being used as a natural fertilizer, and the beans’ skin is used as fuel for coffee-drying ovens. Some of the coffee also is sun-dried.

Núñez said the new beneficio is a significant improvement for the operation, and in transportation and staff expenses alone, producers are saving some ₡6-7 million ($12,000-$14,000) on each lot.

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