Hot Topic: Coffee Cloning To Boost Yields In Poor Areas

 In Coffee News

A laboratory in Monterrey, a city in the north of Mexico, is making waves in the coffee industry at the moment by focusing on coffee cloning, improving the genetic profile of certain crops to benefit poorer areas in the country.

According to the Financial Times, Nature Source Improved Plants (NSIP) – owned by Agromod – has now partnered up with Nestle, with its plants supplying around half the beans the Swiss food giant needs to make Nescafe.

Plants are grown in a lab under lamps, with technicians taking leaf cuttings and growing them in petri dishes… a far cry from the coffee plantations that we’ve all come to know and love. But while it may sound a little manufactured, the fact is that farmers are able to see yields three times higher than with normal plants.

Somewhere like Chiapas, the poorest state in Mexico but the country’s biggest coffee producer, stands to really reap the benefits of this. The news source noted that coffee output has dropped to its lowest level in two decades because harvests have been devastated by coffee rust.

Coffee leaf rust is a plague that affects the plant with yellow spots and what look a little like burn marks. It forms on the leaves and causes them to wither until there’s not much left but the tree itself, with cherries left unable to grow as a result.

Once the leaf cuttings have been grown in the lab, baby clones are then planted in peat moss and live in greenhouses for six months before they’re sent off to nurseries run by Nestle. Farmers then participate in a sustainable agriculture scheme to buy them and sell the coffee that’s produced back to the company.

Director of operations at NSIP’s vitro division Cuauhtemoc Navarro said: “We can make eight million to ten million embryos a year that produce four million to five million plants … A producer who gets two or three tonnes more a year of coffee cherries is boosting his income by 50,000 to 75,000 Mexican pesos (about $2,800 to $4,200) per hectare per year.”

Marcos Gottfried, chief executive officer of Expo Café 2017, recently noted that for the 2016-2017 period, Mexico was ranked in eleventh place among the biggest coffee producers around the world, with 1.6 per cent of global production, according to Notimex.

He said that last year, 3.5 million 60 kilo coffee bags were produced in the country. And what’s more, 717,336 hectares of coffee were harvested, predominantly in Chiapas, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Guerrero and Puebla.

The industry is of clear importance for generating jobs in Mexico, given stats such as this… and it appears to be going from strength to strength. In 2009, 12,000 coffee shops were open in the country, with 59,000 people employed. Come the year 2013, 144,259 people were employed in coffee shops and bars.

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