We are nearing the end of the harvest here in Boquete. I was interested in finding out what our coffee pickers are looking for in terms of good working conditions. Getting good coffee pickers is increasingly one of the keys to success.
This is what I found: Apart from lots of coffee and sunny days to pick it............Panama is not keeping pace with Costa Rican incentives. Here in Chiriqui province, we are very close to the border with Costa Rica. Over the border, they are offering the Indigenous coffee pickers from Panama a much sweeter deal.
Fortunately, most of the harvest in Costa Rica finishes before ours really starts but it is a big problem in the first half of the season.
In Costa Rica the government subsidizes coffee farming activities, so the coffee farmers have larger margins to play with. Here are some of the things they are doing:
- The big farms in Costa Rica arrange all the transport from the Comarca over the border to the farms and pay for the travel. This is an enormous benefit.
- They offer bigger rooms with televisions, gas stoves and electric lights. The owners of the farms give gifts for fiestas and Christmas and help with food and medicine.
- They also pay $3.50 per lata. We are paying this year $3 and this is the highest for many years. Still for the Indigenous even coffee picking in Panama is good money.
So what is the worst thing about coffee picking I asked: "When it rains and we can not pick".