In Brazil – the world’s leading coffee-producing country – farmers face new challenges caused by extreme changes of weather. Bayer helps farmers like Expedito Alves Oliveira with tips and technical know-how to ensure that they do not lose their harvest.
When Expedito Alves Oliveira, 72, rises each morning, his wife hands him a cup of freshly brewed coffee. As he takes in the smell, he’s reminded of family: His coffee was brewed from beans grown on own farmland, the same farmland where his father raised him and 14 siblings, here in the mountainside fields of Santana da Vargem, Minas Gerais, Brazil. At age 22, he took over his father’s farm. He has been cultivating Arabica coffee, alongside his siblings and all of their families, ever since.
As a life-long coffee farmer, Olivera’s been tested many times – but recent challenges are extreme. “Sometimes it rains a lot, sometimes there is no rain, or there is frost,” he says. “There was fierce hail in some places.” In 2016 alone, severe weather in Brazil led to drastically lower yields. This is particularly devastating for smallholders, who produce 80 percent of the world’s coffee. Still, some Brazilian farmers are improving their yields, and even thriving. Oliveira is one of them.
Most farmers in the region are content to produce 50 bags per hectare. In recent years, Oliveira has averaged 70 to 80 bags per hectare. 2017 was even stronger. “On ten of my hectares, we got around 120 bags per hectare.”
This incredible output is the result of Oliveira’s constant, careful attention to his fields and to the way he takes care of them. “I monitor production closely. I analyze the ground and the leaves twice a year, as the experts recommend.” He also keeps a close eye on weather volatility. “What’s happening more often is hail, particularly in the spring, when the grains are beginning to grow. It knocks the young beans off the plants. It also leaves the plants battered, and rot can begin in wounded stems. If there are any changes in the plants or any leaves start falling, I immediately contact the agronomist.”
I follow the instructions that the agronomists give me, but most people don’t. They buy the product but don’t use it carefully.
Specialists from public and private institutions and from Bayer provide Oliveira with technical and educational support, individually and through local farmer support programs. Oliveira welcomes this, despite his decades of experience. “We follow exactly what they tell us in crop management sessions,” he adds. With his results, local farmers see Oliveira’s farm as a model. “They come to look at the coffee plants, ask what we are doing and using.” For Oliveira, willingness to listen and learn is vital. “I follow the instructions that the agronomists give me, but most people don’t. They buy the product but don’t use it carefully.”
For all of the challenges, Oliveira is dedicated to his farmland. “All of my siblings live here. They’ve started their families and keep taking care of the land. Coffee keeps our family together.”
Coffee: A Beloved Beverage worldwide
For many people, the taste of freshly-brewed coffee livens up the day. Did you know that your preferences can reveal your personality – such as if you like milk or sweeteners in your coffee?
Learn also where your coffee comes from: Getting coffee into your cup means year-round effort by talented farmers who cultivate coffee fruit, which is eventually roasted to extract coffee beans. Our new scrollytelling story reveals how coffee is harvested in Brazil.