Costa Rican coffee exports get a jolt from high prices

March 31, 2015
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After years of low prices and falling production from the roya fungus, Costa Rica’s coffee exports are garnering better prices, according to a report from the Foreign Trade Promotion Office, Procomer, and the National Coffee Institute, ICAFE. While coffee and other exports are enjoying a price boom, Costa Rica’s biggest agricultural exports, bananas and pineapple, are looking a little like a bust these days.

The value of the country’s coffee exports is up 40 percent compared to the same period last year, from $40.1 million in 2014 to $56.1 million in 2015. Farmers and exporters welcomed the improved prices, but the bump in prices came at a time of low volume.

Coffee exports between October 2014 and February 2015 are down 7 percent. Costa Rica exported 1,204,284 60-kilogram sacks of coffee so far this season, down from 1,297,178 sacks during the same period in the 2013/2014 season, according to figures from ICAFE. The coffee authority said it hopes for improved volume during the 2015/2016 harvest.

ICAFE said the increase in exports is likely driven by improving international prices, thanks in part to lower production due to a drought in Brazil, the world’s largest coffee producer.

Costa Rica previously estimated that coffee production would reach 1.55 million 60-kilogram sacks of processed coffee during the 2014/2015 season, up 4.5 percent from 2013/2014.

Other exports that saw improvement so far in 2015 were medical devices, up 50 percent from $221.9 million in 2014 to $331.7 so far in 2015, beef, sugar and melons.

The news wasn’t all good for the agricultural sector. Bananas and pineapples, Costa Rica’s most valuable exports after Intel microprocessors, were down 23 percent and 15 percent, respectively. Banana export values slipped to $111.5 million so far in 2015 from $146 million during the same period in 2014. Pineapples tumbled to $109.9 million from $129.1 million.

Both crops have been hurt by rains and low temperatures during the first quarter of 2015. Procomer said that pineapple could bounce back in April if the weather improves, but banana exports may not recover until 2016.

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