Coffee producers, mainly small-scale farmers, are being squeezed out of the market by low international prices. Many have no alternative but to abandon their crops and seek alternative work picking coca leaves and producing cocaine paste, according to the Junta Nacional de Café (JNC).
Across the jungle fringe (ceja de selva), from Piura in the north through the selva central to Puno in the south, coca provides far more income for families than can be earned from growing coffee. The two crops tend to grow in similar ecological conditions.
The JNE represents small-scale producers, most working in cooperatives. As much as 85% of producers work on areas of less than 5 hectares, shared between coffee and other crops. This sector represents the bulk of the coffee industry and is one which has tended to benefit from being organic and fairly-traded.
The JNC points out that producers of specialty coffees (organic and fair-trade) are facing increasingly costly certification demands from US and European importers at a time of rock-bottom prices. They receive little or no financial assistance from government. The JNC would like the government to establish a development fund for coffee producers. It argues that the government is failing to respond to the threat of climate change by supporting farmers who help preserve biodiversity.
One of the areas most directly affected is Puno. According to the JNC, ten years ago coffee was planted on some 9,000 hectares; today plantings are down to 2,800 hectares. Producers are unable to find markets for speciality coffees such as Tunque, for which the Sandia region was famed. In the case of Puno, illegal mining (as well as coca) provide a far more lucrative alternative for families previously dependent on coffee.