Business & Economy

Honduras needs 350K workers to harvest coffee during peak of season

Tegucigalpa, Jan 7 (efe-epa).- Honduras needs some 350,000 people to work temporarily helping bring in the 2020-2021 coffee harvest, which has been reduced by the Covid-19 pandemic and the effects of Hurricanes Eta and Iota, a source in the sector warned on Thursday.

Honduran Coffee Institute authorities are seeking at least 350,000 workers from Honduras and other countries like Guatemala and Nicaragua to collect coffee during the most productive period of the current harvest, the secretary of the National Coffee Council, Omar Funes, told EFE.

“At this time, we have the challenge of the pandemic and some zones affected by the hurricanes. There are producers … (who) need personnel. There are many big farms that are seeking (coffee) cutters,” he said.

Funes went on to say that “it’s not easy” for workers from El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua to enter the country, although it invited nationals and foreigners to join the coffee harvest with the aim of being able to bring in some 10 million quintals of the beans.

A quintal is a 46-kilogram (100-pound) sack.

He said that this work is a temporary option for people from November through April, the coffee harvesting period, and it has been done in the past with foreign labor making up more than 35 percent of the workers.

“The harvest activities in the field, in agriculture in general, are not easy and when cutters come from Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador they come with their families and to take care of the specific activity of cutting,” he said.

Each worker can earn between 300 and 500 lempiras ($12.40 to $20.60) per day.

Funes said that bringing in the current harvest is a big challenge due to the problems posed by the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected about 125,000 people and caused at least 3,192 deaths in Honduras.

He said that the different coffee associations are distributing about a million biosecurity kits to prevent the spread of Covid-19 along coffee’s entire production chain, with the sector generating about a million jobs in collecting the harvest, operating the wet and dry processing mills and transporting the crop.

Authorities at the Honduran Coffee Institute (Ihcafe) have an agreement with the National Immigration Institute regarding entry into the country by Central Americans who are going to work temporarily as coffee collectors, all of whom must show a negative PCR test before they can come into Honduras, he added.

In terms of “the challenge of collecting the harvest, then bringing that harvest from the mountains (where the coffee plantations are located), let’s remember that the road network was heavily affected (by Eta and Iota), and logically with these closures resulting from Covid-19 on the world level the challenge also is to be able to sell that production in different markets,” Funes said.

Last October, the coffee sector forecast exports of 8.2 million quintals of coffee, but because of the impact of the pandemic and the effects of Eta and Iota this total has declined by “at least 150,000 quintals” of the bean, Funes said.

In the last 15 years, Honduras has increased its coffee production capacity from 2.5 million quintals to 10 million of the hundredweight sacks, and thus more workers are needed each year, the National Coffee Council chief said.

Coffee continues to be the main source of foreign currency for Honduras, mainly from sales abroad, and it is the biggest coffee exporter in Central America, providing some 100,000 small producers with their livelihoods.

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