Cheap coffee prices lead coffee growers to plant coca for cocaine

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Coffee producers are calling on leading companies including Nestlé, JAB Holdings and Starbucks to cover farmers’ costs as they struggle to make ends meet, with coffee prices tumbling to a 12-year low.

“The situation is desperate,” said Roberto Velez, chief executive of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation, who warned of social unrest in key coffee-growing countries.

The lack of returns has meant that some of Colombia’s coffee farmers are now planting coca, which is processed into cocaine. Statistics showed that acreage for coca had risen to 200,000 hectares — the highest on record — while coffee cultivation was declining,

Mr Velez said. In Guatemala, low prices were driving farmers to emigrate to seek work, said Ricardo Arenas Menes, president of Anacafe, the country’s coffee association. The benchmark coffee price traded in New York has fallen to less than $1 a pound, due to a bumper crop in Brazil, the world’s largest producer and exporter, and the weakening Brazilian real.

FT

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