After decades of decline, Puerto Rican coffee is making a comeback with the help of agritourism.
For centuries, Puerto Rico was at the top of the coffee industry, producing a coffee product of the highest quality. Coffee was introduced to the country in the 1700s. By the 19th century, Puerto Rico was the 6th leading coffee exporter in the world. However, the coffee industry in Puerto Rico took a downward turn due to overwhelming natural disaster and increasing global competition.
In recent decades, the Puerto Rican coffee industry has faced severe decline, reaching its lowest level of production in history in 2013. The country’s coffee production has has fallen 63% since 1990. The problem isn’t demand. In fact, local demand for Puerto Rican coffee alone outweighs production, which is at currently at only a third of demand. A lack of labor has been a major challenge. There is a severe shortage of coffee plantation workers. It is reported that 35% of crop, the equivalent of millions of dollars in revenue, goes to waste because there are not enough people to pick it. The worker shortage surprisingly exists among a high level of unemployment of around 15%. Strenuous labor and low pay are to blame. Additionally, a lack of seeds and the emergence of a destructive pest have hindered crop production
However, as of late, many initiatives have been underway to help revive the once flourishing Puerto Rican coffee economy, including government projects that add 8,900 of coffee plantations. These initiatives have helped put Puerto Rico’s coffee industry on the road to recovery. One of these initiatives is agritourism.
Agritourism presents a new source of revenue and employment for Puerto Rican coffee farms, allowing coffee farmers and plantation owners to diversify their revenue sources and stay in production. With agritourism, tourists can plan visits to coffee plantations and gain experience in coffee bean harvesting.
An example of agritourism in the Puerto Rican coffee industry can be found at Hacienda Tres Angeles. According to owner Juan Melendez, over 2,500 tourists have visited the plantation in the last year. Hacienda Tres Angeles is certified by Puerto Rico’s tourism board as an agritourism destination, and has become a popular destination for locals and for tourists particularly for offering visitors the opportunity to harvest coffee beans. Hacienda Tres Angeles has a visitors center that helps organize tours of the coffee fields and the mill.
“Tourists come from all over the world thanks to the Compañia de Turismo’s certification and to our presence in all social media.” Juan Melendez, Owner, Hacienda Tres Angeles
Photo Credit: Hacienda Tres Angeles Facebook
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