According to Reuter’s local Costa Rican farmers inform that if a coronavirus-induced foreign labor shortage is not solved soon, the raw material used to make lattes and espressos could spoil on the bush.
The possibility of a bumper crop for the relatively small Central American coffee producer has grown bittersweet as fears increase as the harvest may not be picked by the mostly Nicaraguan and Panamanian hands who traditionally do the work.
Farmers believe that travel restrictions imposed by the government prevent potentially infected visitors from Panama, where the virus has spread widely, and from Nicaragua, where lax containment measures have likely caused a much bigger-than-reported outbreak.
Laborers from Panama and Nicaragua typically account for about two-thirds of Costa Rica’s coffee crop workforce.
While Costa Rica’s coffee exports of around 1 million 60-kg (132 lb) bags are just a drop in global sales, its fine Arabica beans are a staple of the gourmet market. Also, the COVID-19 pandemic has weakened global demand, pressing prices down.
Some regions of the country started this season’s harvest in August. National coffee institute ICAFE expects that some 74,000 laborers will be needed when the harvest peaks near the end of the year.