Spurred by the weather phenomenon El Niño, 18% of the coffee coming to market in Colombia has not met the quality standards of the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia (FNC), compared with the previous average of 10%.
It should be mentioned that the FNC has impressive quality requirements and traceability mechanisms.
In response to the crisis, however, the organization has relaxed standards, boosting Colombian exports by enabling farmers to sell more coffee. As a result, unexpected volumes of Colombian Arabica has entered the market, driving down international prices.
Colombia and Brazil are the two biggest producers of Arabica coffee, which the Bloomberg Commodity Index reports as recently plunging the most of 22 raw materials.
The entry of this lower-quality coffee into the market is predicted to have ramifications for coffee-producing countries in Latin America and beyond, as roasters elect the cheaper option.
In the meantime, large-scale roads projects in Colombia has led to coffee rotting on trees. The infrastructure works offer pay that coffee producers cannot compete with, leading to a deficit in farm workers.
Better-paid work for Colombians is positive, as will be infrastructural development in the lives of many. However, the flip side of the coin is that in a coffee economy ravaged by El Niño and plunging prices, the hardships for smallholders, who already struggled to pay workers, are increasing.
Unpicked coffee starkly reduces what farmers are able to sell, and nurtures the potential for infestations with pests like "la broca".