Thursday, December 30, 2010

The price of coffee in hard times

Until we started producing our own coffee on a big enough scale to be self sufficient we always got our coffee from a factory down the road, called La Mata. It's always excellent coffee, and as much as I enjoy drinking our own I do miss the flavour that a century of production history brings to the art.

This year there is a serious shortage of coffee in this part of Mexico at least, and prices for the raw commodity have gone through the roof--comparatively speaking. The cause varies on who you are talking to. Some say it is the weather, but others say that last year's low prices meant a lot of fincas weren't tended. Our own small crop will be a very good average or better this year -- the beans are the biggest we have ever produced, which may support the argument that limited tending is the cause. But whatever the cause, the reality is that prices are very high this year.

Yesterday, we were enjoying being finished the writing, having sent off the manuscript to the new (and final) edition of our New Literacies book. Michele was painting a facing on the balcony, out in the street. I was beginning an extension to the deck up on a roof two storeys above. Every now and then I would hear a buzz of conversation between Michele and whoever was passing by at the time. A bit later I caught up with one of the conversations. It was with Angel, who works at La Mata. He said that the enterprise's entire crop of coffee had been stolen more or less overnight. The price for green coffee is almost as high as for ripe beans: 10 pesos plays 12 pesos. With the coffee way out of town in remote areas it was vulnerable to the high prices for green bean. The entire holding had been stripped. The high price coinciding with the hardest bite of the recession has upped the ante for crop theft.

We picked a few canastas of our own crop today -- the second small pick we've done. The crop is much later this year on account of the weather earlier. That worked out well, because it meant we could get the writing finished and done with, without having to break at the tying together stage to organise picking and processing. Meanwhile, it just feels very good to be finished with the writing. 2010 hasn't been a great year in lots of ways. But I have to say that I am looking forward to a bit of leisurely coffee production, and am meanwhile keeping as close an eye as possible on the wee plot we call our own.

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