In Honduras, over 1 million jobs are created in the coffee industry when the coffee picking season begins in November. Workers pick coffee beans until as late as April.
Considering that its population hovers around 8 million, job creation from coffee production and earnings from coffee exports are critical to the Honduran economy. Almost 35 percent of gross domestic product comes from coffee exports, according to the Honduran Institute of Coffee (IHCAFE in Spanish).
The significance to the Honduran economy is a key reason behind Honduran Ambassador Michel Idiaquez Baradat’s active marketing of coffee from his country in Korea.
“I’d like to stress that every time Korean consumers drink coffee from Honduras, they directly benefit Honduran coffee farmers,” the envoy told The Korea Times at the COEX in southern Seoul on Nov. 23.
He dropped by the Honduran coffee booth set up there on the last day of the Seoul International Cafe Show.
Baradat says Honduran coffee has high quality and is one of the world’s best. He explained that most coffee farms are located in high altitude areas and their geographical location makes Honduran coffee rich and unique. “Soil gives the final taste to coffee. And soil in Honduras is blessed,” Baradat said.
There are approximately 110,000 coffee producers who grow coffee in six different regions in Honduras. Of these, 95 percent are small farmers who grow coffee in territories of five hectare or less.
Honduras is the largest coffee producer in Central America, according to the IHCAFE, surpassing Guatemala in 2012.
Last year, coffee producers in the country harvested 6 million 46 kilogram bags of coffee.
Mario Ordonez, deputy general manager at the IHCAFE said flavors and tastes of Honduran coffees are different from region to region.
“The flavor and taste of coffee from Santa Barbara, for example, are particularly rich and deep because of the unique soil there. There used to be coal mines in the region and minerals in the soil make Santa Barbara coffee have such characteristics,” Ordonez said through an interpreter.
Over the past two decades since joining the IHCAFE, the coffee expert, along with his colleagues at the institute, has done research on coffee beans to produce the best quality.
Ordonez said there are approximately 50 coffee institutes in his country and their combined efforts to get the best beans have helped Honduran coffee gain a global reputation for its high quality.
The European Union (EU) is the main importer of Honduran coffee. Ordonez said the EU accounts for nearly 80 percent of Honduran coffee exports, followed by the United States with 15 percent and Asia.
In Asia, Korea is the largest importer of Honduran coffee, and is an attractive market for Honduran coffee producers because it is the fastest-growing market.
According to the Korean Customs Service, coffee imports tripled between 2007 and 2012 as a result of rapidly growing consumption.
In 2007, Korea imported $231 million worth of coffee from all over the world. The figure rose to $717 million in 2012.
Ambassador Baradat said imports of Honduran coffee in Korea have been rapidly growing over the past five years and this is good news for Honduran farmers.
Despite this optimistic view, a challenge is ahead. Most Korean consumers are not familiar with Honduran coffee as it is not easily spotted in cafes.
Most Honduran coffees are blended with coffees from other countries and this explains why Korean consumers have little chance to see Honduran coffee brands.
Ambassador Baradat admits that his government was unable to launch aggressive marketing for Honduran coffee mainly due to budgetary constraints and this explains why it still remains obscure, despite its shipment to Korea for many years.
“In the past three years, Honduran coffee delegations have participated in the Seoul Cafe Show,” he said.
To raise the profile of Honduran coffee, the envoy said Honduras will launch targeted marketing to coffee specialists and gourmet consumers. By Kang Hyun-kyung firstname.lastname@example.org
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