Puerto Rican Governor Alejandro García Padilla last week announced a $4.2 million investment plan to reinvigorate PR’s coffee industry by improving yields and adding jobs.
García Padilla said the plan is to develop 16,000 acres of new coffee cropland, while adding 6,000 new jobs. Money will also go toward fertilizer incentives for existing coffee growers, as well as advisory services from PR’s Department of Agriculture.
The Governor made the announcement as part of the government’s “Alejandro With the People” program, in which the Governor and First Lady tour Puerto Rican agricultural towns to help promote farm industry growth. In fact, a lack of farm workers seems to be partly responsible for PR’s slumping coffee industry, which doesn’t even produce enough to meet domestic demand. PR’s Caribbean Business has more on the troubled coffee industry:
Puerto Rico consumes some 300,000 quintals of coffee annually, while its growers produce only 80,000 quintals. The rest is imported from producers including the Dominican Republic and Mexico.
Coffee production in Puerto Rico has hit the lowest level ever in the island’s history, leaving farmers and government officials worried about how to revive a once burgeoning industry.
The reasons behind the recent production drop are many, and farmers worry that few solutions will be found.
One of the main problems is a severe shortage of coffee pickers. An estimated 35 percent of the crop is lost every year because there is no one to pick it, leading to millions of dollars in lost revenue.
The Agriculture Department has urged the unemployed or underemployed, including welfare program beneficiaries, to pitch in to help harvest the island’s coffee crop. Low-income beneficiaries of the Nutritional Assistance Program and Mi Salud are not be penalized for working under an executive order issued during the previous administration.