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Peru’s perfect storm

From the March 2017 issue.

From lacking infrastructure and limited resources to coffee leaf rust and global warming, Peru’s coffee farmers have their fair share of challenges. Still, the country is making a name for itself on the global stage.

Peruvian coffee farmer

More than 1 million people visit the magnificent Machu Picchu ruins every year.

But just 10 kilometres away, following the infamous Salkantay trekking trail, there is a small village named Lucmabamba that is home to 64 families who make a living harvesting coffee and other produce.

It is in this high jungle that coffee production is at its best, particularly the Arabica varietal. Arabica, which comprises 100 per cent of Peru’s production, is grown at elevations of 900 metres or more. In fact, roughly 75 per cent of Peru’s coffee is grown at altitudes between 1000 and 1800 metres.

While most visitors to Machu Picchu gasp for breath in the low-oxygen climate, Arabica coffee plants thrive. And because there is less oxygen, the coffee berries grow slower, giving their seeds (the coffee beans) more time to develop a rich, dense flavor.

At 2026 metres, Lucmabamba is a prime coffee-growing area, part of the greater Junín region in Peru’s central highlands. Victoria Gamarra Ramirez lives with her family in Lucmabamba, where she manages a 2.5-hectare coffee farm. She comes from a coffee family and is very active in her local coffee community. In fact, her dining room is the regular meeting place for her association, Flor de Café, of which she is President.

Ramirez launched Flor de Café with 15 other families two years ago to help the women of the village support their family and gain financial independence from their husband. Before starting the association, the women were operating and selling to the local cooperative independently. But when she actually evaluated her income against costs, “I realised I was losing money”, she tells GCR. “It wasn’t sustainable.”

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