Nespresso and TechnoServe have announced that, five years after hurricanes Irma and María devastated the island’s coffee crops, Puerto Rico’s coffee harvest is expected to return to pre-hurricane levels for the first time.
The recovery has been driven by ongoing work with farmers and partners to replant crops and introduce regenerative agriculture practices that improve resilience against future natural disasters. The implementation of these practices means that Puerto Rico’s coffee production is now on course to surpass pre-hurricane quantities in the next five years.
“We cannot let climate change be the reason that we lose these unique coffees. Thanks to the dedication of local farmers and experts, we can celebrate the first harvest to return to pre-hurricane levels,” says Nespresso Brand Ambassador George Clooney.
Coffee has been part of Puerto Rico’s rich culture and heritage for generations, but in 2017, hurricanes Irma and María destroyed nearly 80 per cent of the island’s coffee production. Prior to this, Puerto Rico’s coffee industry produced over 2,000 metric tons of green coffee annually. In the wake of María and Irma, this number was decimated to just over 330 metric tons.
In the aftermath, Nespresso committed to invest US$1 million and began working in partnership with the international development non-profit organisation TechnoServe, the Hispanic Federation, and coffee farmers in Puerto Rico, to help rebuild the coffee industry.
Nespresso has supported Hispanic Federation’s efforts to distribute two million coffee seedlings to help farmers replace their coffee trees that were destroyed.
“We have improved our planting techniques. Through the training and implementing of what we have learned, we see the positive result in coffee crops. Everyone knows that Hurricane María was devastating. We lost a lot, but at the same time we were able to start over and with better agronomic practices,” says fourth-generation coffee grower in Puerto Rico Rafael Rodríguez Hernández.
Through the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality Program, Nespresso has also worked with TechnoServe to provide training opportunities to more than 1200 farmers across the island in agronomy and regenerative agriculture best practices that help protect and restore soil and natural resources including planting crops in a location that conserves rainwater and reduces soil loss, introducing cover crops and shade trees, and moving towards the use of organic fertilisers. This allows farmers to grow healthier and more resilient coffee trees and produce higher-quality coffee.
Based on data from the Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture and other expert sources, TechnoServe can confirm that for the first time since crops were decimated, the last harvest yields reached 1.88 million metric tons, equivalent to over 90 per cent of pre-hurricane levels. They are projected to exceed pre-hurricane levels with the harvest starting this year. Puerto Rico’s coffee crop yields are now expected to increase, with TechnoServe forecasting over 200 per cent growth from 2016 levels by 2027.
“Coffee has long played an important role in Puerto Rico’s vibrant culture and economy. The impact that hurricanes Irma and María had on the industry and the communities who rely on it was devastating to see. Today’s projections from TechnoServe are very welcome news, and a testament to the transformative benefits that regenerative agriculture brings,” says Nespresso CEO Guillaume Le Cunff.
“I am proud of Nespresso’s support to the island over the past years, and I look forward to seeing how the Puerto Rican coffee industry continues to rebound and thrive.”
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