What’s been called “an industrial revolution” is occurring in Brazil’s coffee sector, as farmers respond to several labor conditions pushing them into mechanical harvesting. The resulting changes may help Brazil increase production to meet future demands as they help farmers earn greater profits. According to an August 4 article by Peter Murphy, machine harvesting is looking more attractive to farmers as the labor pool shrinks. Even after increasing farm labor wages, the workers prefer to move to the more urban areas for jobs that are permanent rather than seasonal. Apparently there are many job opportunities in towns which are experiencing the kind of growth that calls for more labor. However, this also works out advantageously for the farmers, as mechanical harvesters work more economically, slashing harvesting costs by half. This is made possible by sharing the harvesting machines and tractors among co-op members. Another condition is the need to increase Brazil’s production to make up for the bad weather and tree renewal that reduced Colombia’s coffee production. Importers switched to Brazil as a source due to Colombia’s inability to meet demands. Even without the weather problems affecting Colombia, Brazil has the advantage of more acreage where mechanization is feasible, as Colombia is more hilly. It’s estimated that 80% of Brazil’s farms can be mechanically harvested; with only 20% being mechanized so far, there is lots of room for increase. Some farmers will have to widen rows between plants and incur some initial loss, but in the long run they’ll do better. Many others will be able to expand their crop acreage; they are no longer restricted by the amount of workers available, as mechanization makes it possible to farm many more acres without being dependent on the labor pool. Mechanization of Brazilian coffee farms is a good thing for coffee lovers, as the increase in production made possible will help fill the increase in worldwide demand. The Brazilian coffee industry is happy to produce more expensive, mild coffees to meet the demand, made possible by the time-saving machines. The faster harvesting will gather more of the fruit within the specific short timeframes during which the berries are at the right ripeness stage. With world demand for coffee increasing at the same time the Brazilian farm labor pool decreases, mechanization made affordable by the co-operatives is the best possible move for the farmers. We only hope that the mechanization doesn’t affect coffee quality. Speaking of Brazilians – have you tried any of the three below?
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