The Panama Canal Authority has helped open a coffee processing, roasting and packaging facility near the canal watershed in an effort to support the management of the watershed itself, while providing income opportunities for local farmers.
On a global scale, coffee production in Panama represents barely a blip on the radar, yet its association with the Gesha/Geisha variety and its renowned Arabica-growing regions of Boquete and Volcán have generated demand in the specialty market.
The Panama Canal project, however, is focused on the cultivation of low-lying Robusta — a crop for which the country is not typically known, but which may provide opportunities for export earnings, especially through roasted and packaged products.
The opening of the coffee processing center comes five years after the creation of the ACACPA cooperative as part of Panama’s Environmental Economic Incentives Program (PIEA). The cooperative was created to provide market opportunities for new coffees grown in the canal basin, according to the Authority.
Through the PIEA program, the Canal Authority has worked with local coffee producers through classes, seminars and site visits, allowing for the planting of more than 1 million Robusta saplings occupying some 2,220 hectares of land within 95 small communities.
“The journey to this point has been long and full of challenges,” Canal Administrator Jorge L. Quijano said in the announcement released last week by the Authority. “But it remains a journey that has also helped us learn and deliver support to hundreds in our watershed.”