a rich and robust tradition
The coffee plant (Coffea spp) is native to Ethiopia, and is an evergreen shrub from the Rubiaceae family. It possesses bright green leaves with smooth edges. White flowers grow in groups in the axils of the leaves from which the fruit is produced. The fruit consists of red drupes with a size similar to that of a cherry. The exterior part of the fruit is fleshy and its interior contains two seeds or coffee beans, surrounded by a membranous layer of cardboard-like texture. The coffee beans, or seeds, are the part of the fruit that contains the highest levels of caffeine.
The coffee plant is mainly used to produce seeds from which coffee is extracted by the method of infusion in hot water, after the seed has been roasted and ground. This beverage, together with tea, is the most widely consumed, worldwide. Coffee is not only consumed as infusions, but also used to add flavor and aroma to many food preparations, such as ice cream, caramels, cakes, among others. Moreover, since ancient times coffee has had healing applications in natural medicine. It has been used as a stimulant and painkiller, and it has diuretic and antioxidant properties, which can be helpful in the prevention of numerous degenerative diseases. Also, the pharmaceutical industry uses caffeine in the composition of various drugs, mainly analgesic.
The history of coffee dates back to the 13th century, although its origin is placed even earlier. Coffee beans were first roasted and ground in Arabia in a way similar to its modern brewing. By the 16th century, it had expanded to the rest of the Middle East, Persia, Turkey and North Africa. Coffee arrived in Europe around the year 1600. Eventually, coffee salons that began to open in England became the birthplace of the liberal ideas of the philosophers and scholars of the time. In 1689, coffee crossed the Atlantic with the opening of the first venue in Boston and became the national beverage after the American rebels threw tea into the ocean to protest the high tax rates levied by the British Crown. This beverage gained social acceptance in the 18th century.
Coffee is a characteristic crop of mountainous zones that requires heights greater than 1,000 meters since it needs temperatures to fluctuate between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius. It requires rainfall between 1,500 and 2,000 millimeters and soil that preferably has a pH between 4.5 and 6.5. It reproduces in incubators with selected germinating seeds. When the seedling is somewhat developed, it is moved to a nursery and when it is ready to be planted, eight or nine months later, it is taken to the plantation. This plant requires adequate nutritional balance, thus performance of soil analysis is recommended prior to the planting phase.
Four main groups are cultivated worldwide. These are: Arabica Coffea, Robusta Coffea (canephora), Liberian coffee and Excelsa. All these varieties are native to Africa. Economically speaking, the most important species are the Arabica (Coffea Arabica), which represents approximately 60% of world production and the Robusta (Coffea Robusta), which comprises 40%.
Coffee world trade
Coffee production is mainly traded in world markets. In fact, approximately 80% of world production is commercialized in the international commodities markets and the producing countries consume the remaining 20%. During the 1930s, four Latin American countries (Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala) exported 90% of world trade. World production of coffee during the 2011-2012 coffee-year was over 130 million 60-kilo sacks. Moreover, only 5 countries, of which the United States is the largest importer with 25% of total commerce, buy 60% of the total traded.
Coffee planting and production in the Dominican Republic
Coffee cultivation began in the Dominican Republic, specifically in Barahona, in 1735 and since then extended rapidly throughout the South and to several regions around the country, becoming one of the country’s main agricultural crops. Coffee cultivation is mostly located in the four main mountain ranges: Central Cordillera (range), where the largest plantations are located, Northern Cordillera (range), encompassing 33% of the crop area, Neyba mountain range, with 12% of production and the Bahoruco mountain range. Barahona is a region known for the excellence of its coffee, where the Association of Coffee Producers of Paraiso and Barahona is promoting the production of premium quality coffee. 90% of the nation’s coffee crop is Arabica, with a cultivated area of 138,349 hectares and a yield of 0.28 quintals per hectare.
Coffee exportation and its contribution to the national economy
For several decades, the Dominican Republic was a great coffee exporter. By the end of the 1940s the country already exported more than 10,000 tons of green coffee, a figure that increased in subsequent years. Thus we see that in the 1960s coffee exports reached close to 35,000 tons (in 1965), with a value greater than US$30 million. These export volumes remained until the early 1990s but subsequently began to decrease. As of 2010, coffee bean exports have recovered and in 2011 experienced a 39% increase. By 2012, growth was greater than 100%.