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Thursday, November 5, 1998 Published at 15:56 GMT


Coffee crops hit by hurricane

Coffee crops have been ruined throughout Central America

The world price of coffee has risen 22% since Hurricane Mitch struck the Central American republics of Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Losses of the coffee crop have been heaviest in Nicaragua, where officials estimate that 20-30% of coffee production has been lost.

But up to 25% of the crop in Guatemala, the biggest producer, is at risk, while hundreds of thousands of bags of coffee have been destroyed in Costa Rica, Honduras and El Salvador.


[ image: Coffee prices may rise because of the hurricane]
Coffee prices may rise because of the hurricane
Estimates of the damage have been hampered by the destruction of transport links, which has meant it has been impossible to reach the plantations to make an assessment.

The road damage has also put the remainder of the crop at risk. Continual rain has sped up the ripening of the beans, which will rot if they cannot reach processing mills in time.

Coffee grower Erwin Mierisch, speaking from his plantation in Nicaragua, said they were virtually cut off.

"We run the risk of losing half our crop in Matagalpa becaue there is no fuel, no roads," he said.

In Guatemala, ruined bridges have cut off the main port for coffee exports, Santo Tomas de Castilla.

"For the time being we don't have a way of getting the beans out of Guatemala," said coffee trader Bernhard Rothfos.

Central America produces about 8% of the world's coffee, and its Arabica beans are highly prized in North America.

Up until the disaster struck, coffee prices had been kept down by a massive harvest in Brazil, the world's largest coffee producer.

Sugar and bananas also hit


[ image: Sugar producers have also been hit]
Sugar producers have also been hit
The price of sugar has also been rising on futures markets as further details of the damage came through.

Cane sugar is Guatemala's second biggest export. Last year the country produced 1.7m tonnes.

But now the sugar harvest in Honduras and Guatemala has been severely disrupted.

Miguel Maldonado, an engineer at Guatemala's second largest sugar mill, La Union, said: "We haven't been able to reach the fields because access has been flooded, so we can't even quantify the losses."

Five out of seven sugar mills in Honduras are only accessible by air or boat.

Bananas, the top export for Honduras, were also hard hit by the storm.

Fernando Sanchez, local manager for Chiquita Brands, said crop damage amounted to $850m.

Chiquita expects little or no production from Honduras in 1999.





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