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ROASTSCOFFEE TALK


Introduction | Coffee Craze Spread With Islam
Old Labels Have New Meanings | Safeguards Spawn Illegal Profits | Coffee Fills National Coffers | Concocting a Quick Cup



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Coffee Fills National Coffers

Troubled as El Salvador may be, the country remains the coffee champion of Central America with a crop last year of about 150,000 tons, worth 532 million dollars to an economy almost totally dependent upon this one commodity.

Across the Atlantic in a like latitude, Ivory Coasters operate under more congenial conditions. Combined output of some 350,000 small growers makes them undisputed leaders in raising African robusta, a principal money-maker for nine of the continent’s developing countries.

No one paid much attention to the commercial potential of the robustas, first found growing wild in Zaire [now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (map)] in 1898, until the 1950s. Since then, the Ivory Coast pick has grown to a quarter of a million tons a year, giving the country a sound economic base.

Mr. Gng N’Gorand Yobouet of coastal Aboisso is an average Ivory Coast landowner. Along with the customary two wives and a number of his 18 children, he works 16 acres [6.5 hectares] of a semicleared forest, growing a casual mix of marketable coffee, cocoa, bananas, manioc, kola nuts, and oil-bearing palms.

I followed him through half a mile [0.8 kilometer] of tangled undergrowth to the site of his scattered coffee trees. Towering above ready reach, all of them needed pruning.

“No, no. It would take away too many of my cherries. The government man says they’ll come back better on new branches. But not for two years. With so many mouths to feed, I cannot wait.”

The government realized belatedly that old age and neglect of trees were killing off the crop. However, replacement and upgrading programs go slowly: Most farmers, like Gng, feel they cannot afford to lose what they have even for a more promising future.


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© 1999 National Geographic Society All rights reserved.