As hard as it may be to believe, Bolivian farmers in the Yungas Valley are switching from the very lucrative coca plant (cocaine) to the coffee bean. Because of US government aid, the farmers are finding it more profitable to raise coffee than coca. There’s more to the story. Bolivian farmers used to grow coffee up in the Andes Yungas Valley, but in the 1980’s-90’s, the price of coffee was so low, and the popularity of cocaine grew, so the farmers made a switch to coca.
Now the US government’s war on drugs has enticed the farmers back to coffee farming. It started in 2004 when USAID introduced gourmet specialty coffee to the Bolivian farmers They also had to introduce better farming practices, because the Bolivian coffee of that time was very poor quality. Such practices included organic shade-grown techniques and upgraded equipment. In five years, the coffee had improved so much it was scoring 90 out of 100 by the experts. Though their coffee exports still lag behind those of Colombia or Guatemala, Bolivia’s high altitude farms are not so affected by increases in temperature. Thus - during recent hot summers - they prospered while other countries’ production suffered.
The downside for the US war on drugs is that in other areas which aren’t good coffee-growing areas, the coca continues to be raised. The Bolivian government, however, states that much of this coca is going into tea and other non-narcotic products. Regardless, coffee lovers will always benefit when farmlands anywhere changeover to the farming of coffee beans. Not only does an increase in production help alleviate the increase in coffee prices, but a new region contributes different qualities to the world of coffee. The Yungas coffee has a nutty flavor and a versatility allowing it to be used either alone or in blends. CoffeeKind offers some great Bolivian coffees.