June 11, 2024

Honduran Coffee and Other Honduran Exports

Honduras consistently ranks in the top 10 most voluminous coffee-growing countries. Recently, it has recovered much of its pandemic-based slump. Exploring the role of Honduras’ coffee growth in its economy shows how exciting one crop can be in determining the financial well-being of a country. Bearing in mind that coffee lacks nutritional value, this small country’s long-standing dedication to coffee farming is compelling.

Situating Honduran Coffee in the World’s Coffee Belt

To understand Honduran coffee, it’s important to look at the overall map of coffee farming. The worldwide coffee belt is a thick band spanning north and south from the equator. Since coffee grows in tropical places, many assume coffee trees (bushes) need a lot of sun and heat. However, moisture and tree cover, or at least cloud cover, are important keys to growing great coffee plants. That’s because coffee naturally grows under a canopy of trees. It doesn’t do well in the desert. This explains the dearth of coffee growth in parts of Africa and Australia at the same latitudes as coffee-growing regions. The best-tasting coffee grows high up in humid mountain climates with year-round rainfall. Coffee doesn’t grow well in the continental US or Europe. Much of the world’s population needs to import their coffee from another country. 

The coffee belt ships out an impressive amount of coffee, especially considering it isn’t an essential food like a grain or vegetable. The world does love its coffee. People have been dedicated to coffee for centuries, from when coffee was first consumed by humans. Long ago, ground coffee beans were even mixed with butter or animal fat and chewed instead of being brewed and drunk! Nowadays, countries like the USA, Germany and France import the most coffee. Honduran coffee increasingly appears on the world’s map of the best-tasting coffees.

A surprising number of coffee farmers are smallholders. Coffee growth is a unique, long-term endeavor. One factor in the average size of coffee farms is coffee trees’ preference for high, densely forested areas. Rural life often doesn’t provide much financial security and comfort to foster expansion. Most coffee farms are not large, and many farmers have other agricultural or aquacultural endeavors alongside coffee.

Worldwide, Honduran coffee production usually ranks sixth or seventh in terms of overall pounds. It outranks much larger countries like Mexico and India. Also, 90% of Honduran coffee is the world’s preferred variety, arabica.

History of Honduran Coffee 

Honduras lies two countries southeast of Mexico. Its Central American neighbors are Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. A mountainous, humid country, Honduras has had success growing coffee and tobacco since the 19th century. Since both crops aren’t foods and don’t meet caloric needs, it’s interesting that this small, less developed country has been able to continue dedicating land and effort to both crops. 

Coffee-growing skills have been passed down for generations. Farming skills are also being dispersed by coffee collectives nowadays, along with the latest techniques of growth management. The government also supports coffee growth, for the enrichment of the economy and to assist small farmers.

The pandemic presented several types of disruptions for Honduran coffee production and transport. In addition to labor problems, scheduling transportation of green coffee was difficult. Humidity is a big consideration when transporting green (unroasted) coffee. Transportation needs to be booked proactively. However, the overall count of all exports has recuperated, despite setbacks with coffee. Honduras shipped $13.1 billion worth of products in 2022. To better understand coffee’s role in the Honduran economy after COVID, looking at the bigger picture of Honduran exports is in order.  

Honduran Exports Overview

Honduras has more than doubled the value of its exports over the past five years. The estimated value rose from $4.5 billion in 2018 to $13.1 billion. Even if this measure doesn’t take into account inflation, it’s still a notable rise. Honduras ships products primarily to the US, Germany and the Central American neighbors with whom it shares borders.

Honduras exports a wider variety of products than might be expected. The top export category in 2022, according to the items’ American dollar value, was clothing and accessories, specifically t-shirts and vests. Coffee is the second largest export, at almost $1.7 billion. It comprises 13.1% of the total value of exports. Next, electrical machinery and equipment totaled $1.3 billion, which is remarkable for a country with such a large proportion of the population living in mountainous, rural areas.

Most of the top nine most valuable exports in Honduras are agricultural or animal products. Animal and vegetable fats, fruit, nuts, fish and tobacco products are included. More clothing and steel round out the list.

In 2022, Honduran coffee exports were valued highly. Agriculture represents 12% of Honduran GDP, with coffee bringing the highest prices. Coffee is 30% of agricultural GDP.  Since demand for coffee is climbing, Honduras is well-positioned for the future. However, replacing its reputation as a producer of filler beans destined for coffee blends with a reputation for shipping higher-quality beans is important. Elevating its reputation can improve the world’s opinion (and valuation) of Honduran coffee.

The Future of Honduran Coffee

Considering arabica coffee is in short supply in some coffee-growing regions, Honduras can do well—if it stays on its toes in terms of supply and demand. Over 90% of Honduras’ coffee is arabica. The most-grown strains of arabica are Caturra, Bourbon and Catuai. Honduras already ships to more than 55 countries worldwide. A new trade agreement now enables Honduras to ship to South Korea. That’s interesting considering there are closer coffee-growing countries south of Korea.

Honduran coffee crops suffer due to climate problems. Central America has a baseline of powerful weather, so increased rainfall and droughts due to global warming have the potential for more extreme destruction. The roads and infrastructure in Honduras lag behind other Central American countries. Meanwhile, crime and sociopolitical instability have negative impacts. Honduran coffee farmers, traders, collectives and the government must remain abreast of global, regional and local threats to coffee—and opportunities—in order to keep Honduran coffee on its upward trajectory. 

Subida Elevates Honduran Coffee

Subida Coffee Co. helps elevate Honduran coffee by providing agricultural and traditional education to the next generation of Honduran farmers, entrepreneurs and workers. Subida’s dark roast and medium roast of single origin coffee impress with taste, year after year. Subida ranks far above your average Honduran coffee. The sales of this hand-crafted, small-batch coffee support the larger non-profit in Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras. 

With a business model that’s sustainable on all points, Subida Coffee Co. protects the environment and empowers youth. By educating and training students at the agricultural training facility run by agricultural engineers, Subida disperses the skills and knowledge that buoy opportunities for the next generation of Hondurans. With this formation, students can ensure Honduran coffee continues reaching great milestones. Each cohort that graduates can help stabilize the local economy. They’re more prepared to confront obstacles presented by climate change, weather, pests, sociopolitical struggles, crime and economic hardship.

The coffee of Subida Coffee Co. is grown by the team at the Moses Project, a 120-acre commercial farm and agriculture training center in a small community outside of Santa Rosa de Copán.
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