+44 (0)20 7202 2620

Costa Rica: An overview of current coffee trading

Situated in Central America between Panama and Nicaragua, Costa Rica is a global giant when it comes to coffee trading, producing arguably some of the best beans in the world.

Regions such as Tarrazu (divided into three municipalities known as the three saints – Santa Maria de Dota, San Marcos de Tarrazu and San Pablo de Leon Cortes) and Tres Rios are premium for producing speciality grades – as opposed to mainstream ones – for which demand has been increasing, particularly from the US. 

For example, the area is a leading source of quality washed Arabica, which can be used to make exquisite espresso. Furthermore, in November last year, Tarrazu Geisha coffee became the most expensive coffee sold in 48 of the 10,800 Starbucks stores in the US, toppling Jamaica's Blue Mountain blend.

The harvesting season for coffee typically falls between November and March. Other regions that produce coffee include the West Valley, Orosi, Brunca and Turrialba, for which harvesting periods vary slightly. 

Due to its favourable climate, however, the country is also well-known for trading other produce such as bananas, sugar and cocoa.

Our relationship with Costa Rica

DR Wakefield has a close relationship with one of the the country's primary locally-owned exporters, enabling us to supply consistent grades of SHBs and HGAs. We have also nurtured a close bond with the country's main exporter of Fairtrade produce, as well as other shippers.

But we go even further. For example, in Coope Tarrazu – situated in San Marcos de Tarrazu – we have worked in conjunction with the co-op to inaugurate a community project to help boost the value and recognition of the quality of coffee produced in the communities of La Trinidad, Ojo de Agua and Paritilla.

As managing director of our company Simon Wakefield said of a recent trip to the country: "Visiting the farms, meeting the workers and dining at the homes of our suppliers really makes you appreciate the relationships which have been built up over the years and emphasises the fact that coffee is not just about coffee, but people as well."

Current trading news

Since January, coffee trading in Costa Rica and elsewhere in Central America has been making the headlines as the industry has been struck by leaf rust or la roya – a disease which has caused national coffee emergencies to be declared by some countries.

According to the International Coffee Organization (ICO), it has been the worst epidemic since it first appeared in the region in 1976. Given that more than two million people in Central America rely on coffee for their livelihood, it has been vital for farmers and governments to prioritise the issue.

For example, in the Costa Rican town of Dota, around 95 per cent of the local economy relies on coffee.

In order to assess the state of what was going on and to offer support, ICO executive director Roberio Oliveira Silva visited countries affected by the crisis, including Costa Rica where a state of phytosanitary emergency had been declared. Out of 94,000 hectares of coffee plantations, 60,000 had been affected by the outbreak.

Trading figures for 2013/14 may well bear the scars of the epidemic. Central America (excluding Mexico) produced 15.8 million bags of coffee in 2011/12, comprising almost 12 per cent of the entire global production. Therefore, the estimated 2.7 million bags loss due to la roya could constitute declines of around 20 per cent on the previous year – however, time will tell.

At the start of this month, Costa Rican president Laura Chinchilla confirmed $40 million (£26 million) of support for the country's coffee farmers currently struggling as a result of the epidemic, with her office estimating that it will help around 250,000 mostly small farmers.

An international summit will also be held in Bogota in October in order for authorities to discuss how best to tackle the problem, which is currently affecting around 64 per cent of the crop in Costa Rica.