Guatemala Mid-Harvest Update

Published 29 March 2022

We’re heading into the buying stage for Guatemala, and this year is unlike any we’ve experienced before! Over the next few weeks, we will be reaching out to our customers to discuss the complexities of the current season and secure purchasing intentions ahead of booking in the year’s shipments. In the meantime, read on for a brief overview of what we’re hearing from our partners on the ground, and what to expect from this year’s season. 

Guatemala is home to some of our most enduring partnerships, including with the Zelayas, who own Santa Clara and La Soledad in Antigua, the Valdés family, whose Santa Isabel lots were some of our highlights in 2021, and many family-owned farms, like Calahute and La Bugambilia, that our exporting partner, Prisma Coffee Origins, connect us to. Typically, we travel to Guatemala every year to visit in March, however this year we will once again be cupping through offer samples at our Brunswick HQ. In preparation, we have been regularly catching up with our friends on the ground to learn more about how the season is progressing.

This year has been a tough one for the Guatemalan specialty coffee industry. Though volumes at a few of the country’s producing regions are good, many experienced delayed harvests or decreased yields due to erratic rains. Major labour shortages and increased labour costs, coupled with steep price hikes for fertiliser (up by an exorbitant 300%!) and other inputs have driven up cost of production across the board.

For some, like Santa Isabel’s Wicho Valdes, the delayed harvest has allowed him time to streamline operations at the mill and adapt to the labour shortages they’re experiencing. As Wicho explained, “it gives us more time to process all coffees more carefully and dry more of it on patios, rather than relying on guardiolas.” But Santa Isabel is an outlier in this respect, as Eduardo Ambrocio from Prisma Coffee Origins tells us. “Weather conditions were perfect for good yields and high quality this year, but the lack of labour has derailed that. Bigger, more established farms are struggling, and some are even choosing to leave cherries behind because of it.”

These factors, along with the sustained rise in C-market price, are reflected in much higher prices at origin. “It’s been a very weird season. Yes, prices are high for producers, but the cost of production has also increased significantly, and the feeling on the ground is very negative at this point,” Eduardo went on to say. To further complicate the matter, many producers who own smaller farms or that are new to specialty coffee, decided to strip pick and sell their coffee early in the season to take advantage of the rising C price, meaning the availability of specialty-grade coffees is lower than initially anticipated. This is especially true for large volume blending lines, which are directly impacted by increased demand from large commercial buyers desperate to make up for crop shortages in Brazil and Colombia – resulting in reduced availability and heavily inflated prices.

While our focus is (and always has been) maintaining our close buying relationships with our valued supply partners and purchasing coffees that our customers adore, the realities of this year’s availability and pricing will influence our purchasing decisions in 2022. In an effort to keep our business viable and minimise risk, we anticipate purchasing slightly less coffee than we did in 2021, particularly for large volume blending components. We will be selling these on a pre-committed basis, due to the higher prices that these lines are commanding. 

Along with these coffees, we will have a solid line up of single estate coffees, and a special selection of exquisite micro-lots that showcase the skill and expertise of Guatemalan producers. Pricing for these lots is more stable year-on-year and the quality of the coffees we have cupped so far is very good!

We want to hear from you ahead of locking in our order! Regarding volume lines, communicating your purchasing intentions early on allows us to approach our selection with more security and accuracy and gives us confidence to make buying decisions that are good for everyone! As for other lots, letting us know what you’re looking for will help us secure the coffees that you love, offer exclusivity, or meet specific volume requirements. The coffees we select now will land later this year, typically between July and August.