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Tierra Baja: A Case Study in Profitable Coffee Farming

Update to Global Coffee Monitoring Program

July 29, 2020

The El Salvador farm is hosting a variety trial to determine how rust-resistant, high-yield varieties perform in its low-altitude setting.
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Workers bringing plants from the nursery to Tierra Baja.

Tierra Baja doesn’t have the advantage of high altitude that many specialty-coffee-producing farms possess. The farm, whose name translates to “Low Land,” is located at 830 meters above sea level (m.a.s.l.), where growing high-quality coffee is a challenge. Farms at this altitude typically cannot grow coffee varieties susceptible to coffee leaf rust because their coffees will not earn a high enough price to cover the cost of fighting rust damage.

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Tierra Baja farm manager Walter Recinos showing off the farm's GCMP trial site.

Tierra Baja, which is owned by Mr. Antonio Arévalo and located in the Huizúcar municipality of El Salvador’s La Libertad Department, seeks to overcome these challenges and grow high-quality coffee. One way the farm is doing this is by participating in WCR’s Global Coffee Monitoring Program (GCMP). The main variety Tierra Baja is growing through the GCMP is Cuscatleco, a rust-resistant, high-yield Sarchimor variety introgression; the farm is also growing Sarchimor T5296, Marsellesa, and H1 Centroamericano through the trial.

Mr. Arévalo’s goal with Tierra Baja—which is owned by milling and exporting business PROSERDI S.A. de C.V.—is to operate a profitable coffee farm, and the GCMP is helping him accomplish that. WCR and Tierra Baja are experimenting with two different planting distances for each variety and different temporary shade species. By measuring and collecting data from the trees in the trial such as vegetative growth, productivity, and other related information, WCR will determine which variables and locations help each variety thrive at Tierra Baja, which in turn can help PROSERDI and Mr. Arévalo operate a more profitable farm.

WCR’s work is particularly needed in countries like El Salvador where there is no national institute dedicated to supporting the coffee industry. There is no agent that supervises the genetic traceability of plants or brings new varieties to producers; WCR can provide those services for farms participating in the GCMP. While the program helps make coffee production more profitable for farmers, Mr. Arévalo says El Salvador is still lacking access to financial credit for coffee producers, and suggests the country needs an efficiently supervised credit system that farmers like himself can participate in.

Read more about how farms like Tierra Baja participate in the Global Coffee Monitoring Program here.

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The high-slope area at Tierra Baja where the trials with WCR were planted.