Drought has returned to Guatemalan coffee. After major difficulties in 2016 and at the start of 2017, recent rainfall in Huehuetenango is again much reduced.
As Dr Peter Baker reports, ideally, coffee should receive at least 1,500mm/year but it was only 966mm at the Jacaltenango station in 2016, a barely adequate 1,334mm in 2018 and only 17mm so far in 2019.
As of mid-March 2019, coffee around San Antonio Huista (at ~1,000m above sea level) was severely wilted with even shade trees affected.
If rain does not come very soon, there will be major defoliation as in 2017 (see photo). This returning problem is particularly worrying because this time there is no ‘once-in-a-generation’ El Niño to blame it upon.
Such conditions lead to accelerated ripening and quality problems. A senior official at a major coffee company said Huehue coffee’s renowned high quality “is in decline” because of the effect of climate issues.
(photo: courtesy of Pablo Ruiz HRNS)