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- Des, The Grommet

The Promise of Jatropha

 Courtesy of Mike Keller:  
(MikeKeller2@mac.com)

Jatropha curcas, a humble tropical shrub-like tree often used as a living fence in developing countries, may actually be headed for star status as a prime source of bio-fuel in the 21st century.

As research scientists and engineers first considered biofuels in the US and Europe, ethanol made from corn and biodiesel derived from soybeans, looked very promising. Good for the farmers, easy to grow and inexpensive.  What wasn’t taken into consideration was that the increased demand would send prices for these commodities sky-high. While this was a welcome windfall for farmers growing the crops, it created a series of serious issues and ultimately it doomed the industry for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that it became virtually impossible for the producers of the fuels to make money.

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The Butterfly Effect

Spice News: This Blog Helps Veracruz Coffee Grower Find a Market in South Korea
Courtesy of Courtenay Dunk: www.spicelines.com

You’ve heard of the “butterfly effect,” haven’t you? It’s the idea, put forth by Conrad Lorenz, that the whisper soft beating of of a butterfly’s wing may stir up air currents that create a storm thousands of miles away.

Something like the butterfly effect seems to have happened in Veracruz. And it’s very good news.
Two years ago, I wrote about the plight of Don Ruperto Opoch, a genteel third generation organic coffee farmer whose story nearly broke my heart (“Veracruz: Great Coffee If You Can Find It; a Grower’s Lament”). “We are starving,” he told me with simple dignity. After a lifetime of

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Cafe Feminino

Female Coffee Growers Find New Freedoms in Peru

By Sadie Hoagland – WeNews correspondent

NUEVO YORK, Peru (WOMENSENEWS)–Her hands move methodically down the branch, raking the red coffee cherries into the basket around her neck. She moves to the next branch, demonstrating the work of harvesting coffee. Watching her dexterity and strength, one would never guess that Rosa Cantalina Sanchez is 66 years old.

Glades Valencia, 14, is doing the same thing, running her hands down the branches as if she were braiding hair.

Sanchez and Valencia represent a life’s work of coffee growing in northern Peru. Even though many of the region’s farmers have attained “Fair Trade and Organic” certification in order to grow higher premium beans, the most a coffee-farming family can hope to make is $1,200 a year, and only $400 in poorer areas.

The average annual per-capita income for this region is about $1,300, according to the Organic Products Trading Company, an import company based in Vancouver, Wash., that works with the growers. That level of poverty describes about 68,600 families in northern Peru who together produce 49 percent of Peru’s coffee–about 273.2 million pounds–almost all of it grown for export.

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For an update on the 2016 vanilla shortage, please see "Why is Vanilla so Expensive?"

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