A hundred million people in the United States wake up every day to the smell of coffee, a third of which is produced in Brazil, making Brazil by far the world’s largest producer of coffee, a position the country has held for the last 150 years. With 80% of the production of Brazilian coffee being the delightfully tasting Arabica coffee, it’s the largest producer of low grade Arabica coffee in the world, along with being a large producer of Conilon robusta too.
There has been a remarkable increase in the production of Brazilian coffee over the past few years, in order to meet the demand for cheap coffee the world over. Just over the last 12 months, Brazil exported over 46 million bags, a sharp increase from the 18 million bags it exported in 1994. The history of production of Brazilian coffee goes back to 1727 when the first coffee bush was planted in Brazil, supported by curious rumours about the first samples of seeds being smuggled into Brazil by the military Francisco de Melo Palheta who charmed a Lady in French Guiana to part with them.
Brazilian economy, then based on the production of sugar, gradually shifted to coffee, helping it become a monopoly in the international coffee market by the first decades of the 20th century, with the economy completely dependent upon coffee. Around the middle of the 19th century, following the decline of slave labour, Brazil pushed for greater influx of immigrants to work in the coffee farms. The success of the State of Sao Paulo as the economic and political centre in the country is often attributed to it being the first and main producer of coffee.
Currently, coffee production in Brazil provides income for over 10 million people involved in the coffee trade, fuelling a significant part of the US$60 billion a year industry. Such figures, however, have often led to the misunderstanding that Brazil is heavily dependent on coffee for its economy. Coffee is responsible for only 0. 3% of Brazilian GDP, falling well behind industries such as automotive, aerospace and high tech that make up a massive chunk of the GDP.
To encourage coffee farming among this extremely competitive sector, the Brazilian government has recently deregulated the coffee industry, allowing large farms to market their coffees directly to consuming countries without regard to government-mandated grading structures. The industry is not without its problems. Grown in elevations ranging between 2,000 feet to 4,000 feet, the rapid climate change is predicted to hurt the production of beans available for an estimated four years, leading to an increase in price.
There have also been concerns about the quality of beans produced, currently being tackled by Brazilian coffee growing associations as they try re-creating the image of Brazilian as exquisite and distinctive Specialty-level coffee. It is the Brazilians’ hard work that gets much of the world its favorite beverage. So next time you sip your coffee, offer a toast to the country that gave us Samba to groove to.
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