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How did the Salvadoran coffee industry develop in Central America?

Published: 2024-03-01 Author: World Gafei
Last Updated: 2024/03/01, El Salvador was once the fourth largest coffee producer in the world. Coffee arrived in El Salvador in 1880 and quickly became a major source of wealth for the country's upper class. Indigo (a plant dye) was the main export crop of El Salvador and Guatemala before coffee came to El Salvador. However, in 1

El Salvador used to be the fourth largest coffee producer in the world. Coffee came to El Salvador in 1880 and soon became the main source of wealth for the country's upper echelons. Until coffee arrived in El Salvador, indigo (plant dye) had been a major export crop in El Salvador and Guatemala. However, in the 1880s, with the emergence of new and cheaper man-made dyes, the country's indigo export business gradually disappeared, and coffee replaced indigo as the country's largest export crop, benefiting small-scale landowners with large tracts of land.


These landowners have almost close political ties, including El Salvador's President Tom á s Regalado, who once owned more than 6000 hectares of land. Politicians are used to using their positions (and the army) to force farmers to cede land to cronies and even to do low-paid or unpaid work on large estates. These upper-class people have invested a lot of money in infrastructure, allowing El Salvador's coffee industry to flourish. However, it was not until many years later, when land was redistributed to landless farmers, that most people had the opportunity to benefit from these investments.


In 1920, 90% of El Salvador's exports were coffee, and by 1970, El Salvador became the fourth largest coffee producer in the world. Unfortunately, El Salvador's status as an agricultural power was destroyed by the civil war of 1979-92.

In terms of coffee, one of the major consequences of the civil war was land reform: the decomposition of many large estates and the redistribution of land to landless workers. Today, 95% of coffee growers in El Salvador grow coffee on less than 20 hectares of land.


El Salvador's long history as a major coffee producer has played a positive role in today's coffee production. Unlike other countries, the production of boutique coffee requires a lot of additional investment and training, but farmers in El Salvador already have extensive and skilled planting techniques and are enthusiastic about coffee production. Although coffee production in the country is much lower than before, the method of coffee production has shifted from quantity-driven to quality-driven.

A new generation of coffee producers have new production concepts and methods, and many people are trying new coffee varieties and processing methods. The beloved Pacamara and Pacas are from this country, and they often win places in coffee competitions.


As a result of urbanization, only 11 per cent of the country's territory is now forest, of which 7 per cent are coffee plantations. Although coffee is no longer the main driving force of the country's economic development, it has played a good role in environmental protection. More than 90% of local coffee grows under shade trees, which slows fruit ripening, increases the combination of internal sugars, maintains the diversity of local and migratory wildlife, supports aquifers by storing water, and prevents soil erosion.

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