Salvadoran coffee enjoys new global reach, with China being major trade partner

El Salvador’s coffee boom, driven by local bean’s exquisite quality and flavor, has encouraged the country’s producers to make inroads into new global markets and strengthened existing trade ties.

The diplomatic relationship between China and El Salvador has opened a huge market for the export sector that is generating unique advantages for the Central American country.

Some six generations of Salvadoran coffee growers have dedicated themselves to producing a robust bean, and these often family-owned businesses today face unrivaled opportunities in China, where it is now easier to export their products thanks to the friendly ties between the two nations.

Salvadoran producers exported around 5,000 quintals of coffee during the 2018-2019 season, bringing in revenues of 978,038 U.S. dollars, a figure expected to increase in the future.

Roberto Salaverria, owner of La Casona Coffee, told Xinhua that producers hope to export more to China by banding together to market and promote the bean with a unified message.

“In China … we must organize ourselves well and make a joint effort, learn how to speak to them,” and approach the right people, he said.

Fairs that showcase Salvadoran coffee present great opportunities, but producers must be organized and work as a team to do well in the Asian country, he said.

“In China, we can go to the provinces, associations, specific people who know a little about Latin America and want to give us a helping hand to work well. We have to organize ourselves well, make a united effort,” he said.

Ecuador produces exclusively Arabica coffee, nearly 68 percent of it Bourbon variety. Coffee exports represent around 5 percent of the country’s total exports, and under normal conditions, the industry provides 100,000 direct jobs and 400,000 indirect jobs.

One of the industry’s advantages, especially in today’s health-conscious world, is that it preserves the traditional cultivation process, which avoids the use of chemicals and protects the ecosystem.

Climatic conditions, soil and level of rainfall also contribute to the high quality of Salvadoran coffee.

In 2019, El Salvador exported 742,913 quintals of coffee to its five main markets in the United States, Germany, Italy, Belgium and Japan, bringing in revenues of over 103 million dollars.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, producers are continuing their efforts to position the product on the world market, but face challenges.

Fernando Silva, manager of Los Ausoles cooperative, told Xinhua that before the pandemic, Salvadoran growers would produce 4 million quintals, and that so far this year, only 700,000 have been produced.

Located in Ahuachapan department on the border with Guatemala, the cooperative is one of the largest in the country, with a capacity to produce 180,000 quintals of export-grade coffee, 25 percent of its total production.

China’s rising coffee consumption is an incentive for local growers, said Silva, noting that despite its age-old tea-drinking culture, younger generations are acquiring a taste for coffee.

To further strengthen Salvadoran coffee’s presence in global markets, Salvadoran Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Pablo Salvador Anliker said the sector is turning to online coffee auctions.

“My priority is for the smallest producers to outdo themselves, grow and improve their economy by selling their coffee at a better price on the international market,” Anliker added.

In 2019, an online auction drew more than 79 registered buyers from 20 countries and regions, leading to direct business deals between producers and buyers, establishing long-term relationships, and generating better profit margins for companies.

“This type of online auction is a window to the world,” said Anliker.