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Coffee production helps reduce poverty in Panama

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Staff Writer | May 31, 2018
Coffee production is becoming an important option for Panama to reduce poverty through increased exports, leading to improving lifestyles along the Panama Canal.
Coffee Panama
LatAm   The Panama Canal Authority inaugurated the first coffee processing plant
The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) inaugurated the first coffee processing plant along the canal on Monday. ACP administrator, Jorge Quijano, told Xinhua that the project is being run jointly by his entity, the private sector and coffee farmers.

It is part of a series of programs being run along the canal, named PIEA, aiming to making it a profitable route for more than just maritime cargo transit.

The processing plant is located in the town of Las Gaitas, in the district of Capira, near Panama City.

The cost of the plant was between 40,000 U.S. dollars to 50,000 dollars with the ACP providing technical and business training to allow local producers to become entrepreneurs, eliminate middle men and obtain better prices under the Cuencafe brand.

Quijano mentioned that international interest has already been received to import this "robust" coffee.

"Five years ago, there was not even a peeling machine. We had to send (the beans) to Santiago (in the western province of Veraguas) to be roasted," explained the ACP chief.

Quijano said that now the entire processing of the coffee from toasting to packaging can be done locally.

The initiative is now set to grow in other communities along the Canal, which will also help to protect the area's environment.

"In this way, it is possible to avoid erosion," explained Quijano, adding that such plantations also help to retain water.

This water is then redirected to the artificial Lake Gatun and rivers that are crucial to the operation of the Panama Canal locks.

The ACP is working with local cattle farmers to find the right balance to strike along the canal, as well as how to best divide the fields and lots.

The next challenge, according to Quijano, is now to maintain the quality of the product.

The initiative has teamed up with an NGO, Fundacion Natura, to bring the latest coffee-growing techniques to the area, while an internationally recognized expert assesses the value of the product.

Another necessary step is to obtain the right sanitary permits from the Ministry of Health, which will allow the coffee to be sold in supermarkets across Panama.

In 2013, a local coffee growers' association, Acacpa, was founded to commercialize the coffee. Its president, Maximo Nunez, explained that for a decade, the region's coffee growers did so in a disorderly fashion. Now, the goal is to implement better practices, leading to better coffee.

The members of Acacpa already represent a coffee production of around 116 hectares.

Local producer Liduvina Rivera said that adding value to the local coffee was a ray of hope for producers, who no longer are forced to sell their crop at a value set by the buyers.

Rivera is a member of the Linda Vista farm, with its coffee having achieved a premium reward.

"By treating it well with a good process, we can charge what our coffee is worth. We have a different future," she explained.

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