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Senate seeks to incentivize coffee farmers after Hurricane María

By on November 22, 2017

Coffee berries in a Puerto Rico farm. (iStock)

SAN JUAN – The chairman of the Puerto Rico Senate’s Agriculture Committee, Luis Berdiel Rivera, and Sen. Miguel Romero Lugo, have filed Joint Resolution 175, which seeks that the Department of Agriculture issue an annual payment of $300 per “quintal,” roughly a 100-pound bag, for the next four years to each farmer who lost their coffee harvest as a result of any weather event.

This funds, calculated based on the weight sold in 2016, would come from the department’s Coffee Purchase and Sale Program profits. The money must be used as follows: fertilizer, 25%; labor, 25%; and administrative expenses, 50%.

Farmers are eligible whether or not they are insured. Those who request the incentive and do not use it for the aforementioned purposes would be committing a crime and must replace it.

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“Our agriculture is not exempt from the economic situation caused by the passage of hurricanes Irma and María. Unfortunately, many years of effort, sacrifice and work by our farmers were affected in only hours, and with this measure we prevent the coffee industry of the mountains from dying. In the past few years, the demand for coffee to be produced on the island was of 270,000 quintales. This problem not only extends to this year’s coffee crop, but that this industry will take three to four years to recover,” Berdiel Rivera said.

Puerto Ricans consume 270,000 to 300,000 quintals of local and the imported coffee annually.

Last year, 45,000 quintals were produced on the island but, as a result of hurricanes Irma and María’s blow to the coffee industry, the local harvest this year will drop to 10,000 to 15,000, instead of the 100,000 quintals that had been expected. This means the existing harvest is 6% of the demand.

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“Puerto Rico is a country that likes to consume good coffee and for our industry to recover as soon as possible, it is urgent to incentivize coffee growers with the resources we have at hand,” Berdiel Rivera added.

The measure will be evaluated in a public hearing Tuesday, Nov. 28 at 10 a.m. The Agriculture Department, the Farmers Association, the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez’s Agriculture College, Acción y Reforma Agrícola and the Agronomists Association were invited to testify.

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