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Paraguayan coffee production.

Paraguayan coffee production

Paraguay is an independent, landlocked republic of South America situated in the south central part of the continent and encircled by Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina. Its total area is 406,752 k [m.sup.2], cleft into two quite distinct parts by the great river Paraguay. Rivers play a vital role in the nation's economy, and the name of the country is said to derive from the Guarani Indian word meaning "place with a great river."

The vast majority of the 3.5 million inhabitants are native Paraguayans who pride themselves on their Guarani descent, the Guaranis being the original Indian inhabitants of the country. There is also a sizeable immigrant population which includes Brazilians, several thousand of whom have planted twenty million coffee trees in the Canindeyu area close to Brazil.

Cofee was initially planted in Paraguay more than 200 years ago in the eastern Cordillera zone of the country. Some of these plantations still exist today, but the main producing area is the Brazilian frontier area. The dramatic 1975 frost caused the abandonment of plantations established by Brazilian immigrants in the 1950's further north in the Pedro Juan Caballero area.

The climate is subtropical, with the coffee growing area lying just south of the Tropic of Capricorn. Average annual rainfall is 67 inches, frost occurs somewhere in the country every year. The area to be planted for coffee is cleared of forest, which is cut down and burned. The seeds are then planted between the tree stumps in straight lines with a spacing of 2.50 to 4 meters between the rows.

Alternatively, the seeds are planted in nurseries and transplantaed when they are approximately 40 centimeters high. Coffee trees are always planted on the ridges where the risk of frost is less probable. Trees start producing sometimes between their third and fourth year, with the first large crop in the fifth year. The number of trees per hectare varies according to the spacing, and is between 1,000 to 2,000.

Each bush "cova" contains a number of individual trees. The most popular amount was four to five trees in each "cova," but many producers today plant only two trees to each "cova" and plant the bushes closer together. Normally, a tree produces for at least 20 years or more.

In Paraguay, all labor is manual as it is impossible to use tractors for cultivation because of the stumps and logs which lie between coffee rows. Pruning and spraying take place at frequent intervals, and fertilization every 10 years. The coffee trees start flowering in Paraguay in September and continue until the end of November. Harvesting starts at the end of June, beginning of July, and continues for approximately three months.

The cherries are harvested by hand, with a whole families participating in the harvest. A tree produces one kilogram of beans every two years. The cherries are taken to a central collecting point for drying and peeling. Most farmers dry the cherries in open yards exposed to the sun. Larger plantations use machinery to dry and clean. The beans are then processed, classified and trucked to the capital of Asuncion for preparation for export.

Almost all coffee exported from Paraguay is green bean, which amounts to approximately 470,000 bags in 1989/90 and is expected to reach 500,000 bags in 1990/91. Argentina and Europe are the biggest importers of Paraguayan coffee, with official Argentine figures for 1989 showing 1643,633 bags being imported. USDA figures show the U.S. imported 28,450 bags of green coffee.

Paraguay has one soluble coffee processing plant with a capacity of 750 tons annually. Roasted and soluble coffee is exported to Argentina, Europe and, in 1989, 87 tons of soluble coffee was exported to the United States.

The chief method of transportation in Paraguay is by water, and coffee, like most of Paraguay's international traffic, is exported down the rivers Paraguay and Alto Parana on small ocean going vessels directly to Europe or the USA, or for in Argentina or Uruguay onto ocean going vessels.

Recent estimates by the USDA indicate that there are 32 million coffee trees in the country of which 29 million are bearing, with a total production of 430,000x60 kg bags annually. Yields per hectare during 89/90 were the highest ever recorded in Paraguay, 1,229 kg per hectare.

Quotas and marketing fall under the auspices of the Chamber of Coffee Exporters of Paraguay who incorporates all coffee exporters. They also control purchases from the producers and distribution among the exporters.

Paraguay is a member of Annex 2 of the ICO. On the international market Paraguayan coffee can be classified as unwashed Arabica. National internal consumption of coffee for 1989 was estimated at 16,000 to 20,000 x 60 kg bags.

Coffee consumption in Paraguay takes second place to yerba mate, a tealike beverage popular in many South American countries and brewed from the dried leaves of an evergreen shrub or tree (Ilex paraguariensis) related to holly. It is a stimulating drink, greenish in color, containing caffeine and tannin, and less astringent than tea. Although mate is an ancient Indian beverage, the plant, growing wild in Paraguay and southern Brazil, was first cultivated by Jesuit missionaries.

In brewing mate, the dried leaves (yerba) placed in dried hollow gourds are covered with boiling water and steeped. In Paraguay, the dried leaves are often steeped in cold water when it is then called terere. The gourds are called mates, and the tea is sucked up through a bombilla, a tube about 15 centimeters long, often made of silver with a strainer at one end to keep leaf particles from the mouth. Mate, usually served plain, is sometimes flavored with milk, sugar, or lemon juice. In the United States and Europe, it is often sold in health-food stores.

Yerba mate is the most popular beverage in Paraguay, Uruguay, southern Brazil and Argentina where 160,000 tons is consumed annually, with exports of between 6,000 to 10,000 tons mainly to neighboring countries but some to as far afield as the Middle East, Switzerland, Japan and Taiwan.
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Author:Misdorp, Sheila
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1991
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