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El Salvador Coffee Report: Migration and Farm Abandonment On the Rise

coffee farm landscape

Daily Coffee News file photo.

Coffee production in El Salvador is estimated to reach approximately 555,000 60-kilo bags in market year 2023/24, a decline of more than 100,000 bags from the previous estimates.

The country’s coffee sector continues to be affected by climate change, a lack of labor in rural areas due to migration, aging coffee trees and sustained high costs for farm inputs such as fertilizers.

These and other issues are outlined in the new USDA Foreign Agriculture Service annual report on the Salvadoran coffee sector.

[Note: This is part of a series of stories that will explore USDA FAS annual coffee reports. The information agency typically delivers more than a dozen country-level reports on the coffee sector, each coming from different authors and field offices.]

Green Coffee Production

  • El Salvador’s coffee production is expected to rise from 555,000 sixty-kg bags in 2023/24 to 560,000 bags in 2024/25. These estimates are down from previous estimates of 670,000 bags for 2023/24.
  • A government-led assistance plant giveaway program for small farmers (10 hectares or less) has been minimally effective, and the report recommends additional activities regarding coffee rust prevention and plant management.
  • Specialty and value-added coffee production is growing, with farmers focusing on micro and nano lot sales to specialty retailers in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, providing additional revenue.

Domestic Consumption

  • Coffee consumption in El Salvador is growing, with new coffee bars and retail brands — including Juan Valdez, Starbucks, McCafé and local brands Viva Espresso and The Coffee Cup — further boosting demand.
  • Total 2023/24 consumption is estimated to reach 295,000 bags, marking a strong post-pandemic rebound.
  • Despite the rise in local high-quality coffee consumption, nearly 90% of domestic consumption is for lower-quality soluble (instant) coffee.


  • Coffee exports for the 2023/24 market year are estimated at 402,200 bags, a 22% decrease from the previous crop, but are expected to rise to 525,000 bags in 2024/25.
  • The United States is the primary export destination for Salvadoran coffee, accounting for about 43% of total exports, followed by Germany at 8%, with Belgium, Italy, Japan and Canada also being significant markets.
  • Promotional events like the Cup of Excellence and global electronic auctions have boosted premium prices for gourmet and specialty coffees, incentivizing increased exports of these high-quality varieties.


  • The Salvadoran coffee sector needs a major replanting initiative to renovate areas with new trees, since many are over 25 years old and past their productive age, the report states.
  • Annually, over seven million plants are required to replace those that die naturally, with sources estimating that 30 million rust-resistant plants are needed each year for 10 years to fully renovate the country’s planted area.

Job Losses and Migration

  • The challenges in the coffee sector are causing job losses and migration to urban areas, with 10,000 jobs lost for every 45,000-ton drop in production, according to the agency’s estimates.
  • Abandoned coffee farms are increasingly being converted for basic grain production, reducing forest cover and water retention.

Future Strategy

  • The future of El Salvador’s coffee sector relies on implementing a comprehensive strategy including debt restructuring, extended repayment periods, and a unified coffee association for research, technical assistance and quality control, according to the authors.
  • The authors further stress that without addressing these issues, the abandonment rate of coffee farms, currently at 35%, will continue to rise, worsening existing labor, environmental, and economic crises.

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