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Peru holds exceptional promise as a producer of high-quality coffees. The country is the
largest exporter of organic Arabica coffee globally. With extremely high altitudes and fertile
soils, the country’s smallholder farmers also produce some stunning specialty coffees.
Though coffee arrived in Peru in the 1700s, very little coffee was exported until the late
1800s. Until that point, most coffee produced in Peru was consumed locally. When coffee
leaf rust hit Indonesia in the late 1800s, a country central to European coffee imports at the
time, Europeans began searching elsewhere for their fix. Peru was a perfect option.
Between the late 1800s and the first World War, European interests invested significant
resources into coffee production in Peru. However, with the advent of the two World Wars,
England and other European powers became weakened and took a less colonialist
perspective. When the British and other European land owners left, their land was
purchased by the government and redistributed to locals. The Peruvian government
repurchased the 2 million hectares previously granted to England and distributed the lands
to thousands of local farmers. Many of these farmers later grew coffee on the lands they
Today, Peruvian coffee growers are overwhelmingly small scale. Farmers in Peru usually
process their coffee on their own farms. Most coffee is Fully washed. Cherry is usually
pulped, fermented and dried in the sun on raised beds or drying sheds. Drying
greenhouses and parabolic beds are becoming more common as farmers pivot towards
specialty markets.
After drying, coffee will then be sold in parchment to the cooperative. Producers who are
not members of a cooperative will usually sell to a middleman.
The remoteness of farms combined with their small size means that producers need either
middlemen or cooperatives to help get their coffee to market. Cooperative membership
protects farmers greatly from exploitation and can make a huge difference to income from
coffee. Nonetheless, currently only around 15-25% of smallholder farmers have joined a
coop group.