In the wake of Hurricane Iota and Eta in Central America, the International Coffee Organization (ICO) says it stands in solidarity with the victims of this devastating disaster and has committed to mobilising much-needed resources towards the recovery.
“We are working to mitigate the impact of this climate-related tragedy on the life and work of coffee farmers in the region. The ICO and its staff express their sincere condolences to the people of Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador, and Guatemala. People have lost their lives, their homes and their livelihoods. We are taking immediate action to support our friends in Central America, we will get through this together,” says José Sette, ICO’s Executive Director.
Hurricanes Iota and Eta were some of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record, with the countries worst hit being Honduras and Nicaragua. Meanwhile, COVID-19 is circulating in the affected areas and further aggravating the disaster. Using its convening power, the ICO is rallying the international community on this issue, including ICO members, other international organisations and donors, the private sector, regional organisations, and financial institutions such as the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB).
“The ICO was there for our country after Hurricane Mitch in October 1998, supporting the rehabilitation of coffee production in Honduras and Nicaragua, and it is here for us now. We welcome this much-needed support and the mobilisation of the global coffee community. In Honduras, the government and all coffee institutions are coordinating cooperation efforts with all international organisations and financial institutions,” says H.E. Ambassador Ivan Romero Martinez of Honduras.
“This is the time for the ICO, its members and the private sector to support us during this tragic moment in which 3.5 million people have been affected in Honduras and where a large part of coffee infrastructure has been destroyed. The coffee sector is the most important agricultural sector in Honduras, generating 1.5 million jobs during harvest times.”
Hurricane Iota was the second major hurricane to hit Central America in a matter of weeks. The first was Hurricane Eta, which made landfall on 3 November 2020 as a category 4 storm, causing landslides and flooding that displaced thousands and left scores of people dead or missing. The damage to coffee-growing communities in the region is considerable.
“Two extreme weather events in less than two weeks, Hurricane ETA and Hurricane IOTA of categories 4 and 5, hit Nicaragua in a devastating way. From the beginning, the priority of the Government of Nicaragua was and continues to be to protect the lives of its citizens, rescuing them from danger and evacuating 160,597 people to safe shelters. We are now working on the inclusive and sustainable reconstruction of the lives of the three million people affected, including coffee producers, by addressing their immediate needs, rebuilding their homes and livelihoods, helping them to salvage their crops, rehabilitating key roads and infrastructure, while ensuring their safety and well-being. Nicaragua is working with the international community and multilateral agencies to provide the necessary cooperation to assist these resilient recovery efforts and to address the emergency caused by these climatic events. We thank the ICO for joining this effort in a proactive manner and for its call to the global coffee community to show, once again, its support for the Nicaraguan coffee sector at this critical time,” said H. E. Ambassador Guisell Morales-Echaverry of Nicaragua.
In Honduras, according to an initial assessment by the National Coffee Council (CONCAFE), the passage of Hurricane Eta and Iota affected 60 per cent of the coffee-growing municipalities and 14 of the 15 departments that produce coffee, totally damaging some 3409 hectares and partially damaging 4144 hectares of coffee farms. The impact on production is calculated to be 1.5 per cent directly affected and another 1.5 per cent is at risk in the partially affected areas. The assessment noted that there is a great risk that the harvest will not reach processing and export centres due to severe damage to roads and infrastructure. The main damage to infrastructure includes the impacts of landslides, roadblocks, damaged bridges, or collapsed river crossings. Total production lost due to the impact of the hurricanes is estimated to be approximately 3 per cent of the exportable production forecast for the 2020/21 harvest, up to 200,000 60-kilogram bags are at risk of loss. Considering that the rains continue to cause significant water saturation in the soil, there is a risk of further landslides.
According to a preliminary report by the Nicaraguan authorities, three million people, almost half the population, in 56 municipalities in the country have been affected by the h and the total damage to the Nicaraguan economy is estimated at US$742.7 million, 6.2% of the national GDP. The coffee-growing areas most affected were the coffee provinces of Jinotega, Matagalpa, Boaco, Estelí, Madriz and Nueva Segovia, covering an area of 23,337 square kilometres. Whilst the full impact on the coffee harvest in Nicaragua is still being evaluated, official reports estimate that 3,407 hectares of coffee farms were damaged. Heavy rainfall, landslides and flooding greatly affected the coffee plantations and coffee infrastructure. Despite this, small-scale coffee farmers in the affected areas, thousands of whom have lost or have had their homes damaged, have joined the country’s efforts to rescue their crops, clearing roads of debris and demonstrating remarkable resilience.
According to ICO data, in the global coffee value chain, Honduras and Nicaragua together accounted for a total of 7.4 per cent of world exports from producing countries in 2019 (5.14 per cent in Honduras and 2.24 per cent for Nicaragua).
“The ICO will work with partners to help rebuild resilience and promote recovery in the region, including through supporting the recovery of production, logistics assets and infrastructure,” Sette says.
“We shall build on the ICO’s previous successful efforts, such as when we helped countries in the region to recover their trade and production assets in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch and Denis. We will mobilise co-funding through the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) and local government. We do not leave our Members out in the cold; we are there in their darkest hours.”