After visiting a Starbucks farm and Café Rey today, we saw two different types of companies, one with an international focus and one with a local focus. Costa Rica grows great coffee, so are they losing great coffee they could be drinking? How do they benefit from trade?
First off, I think the country benefits from their exports of coffee. With the quality of coffee they grow, their coffee is high in demand. Also, based on previous visits where exports were more heavily emphasized, I think Costa Rica is selling their coffee for great prices. This trade stimulates Costa Rica’s economy. There are many Central American countries that aren’t the wealthiest, which included Costa Rica at one point. They were able to use their natural resources of fertile soil, elevation, and correct climate to successfully grow coffee. Costa Rica produces a lot of coffee, and there is no way they could consume all of it. The only option is to export coffee, which I think they get great prices for. Since coffee is their specialty, they can get more value out of selling coffee than they could making something else.
In addition to their economic gain, I think Costa Rica benefits by putting their name on the map. Costa Rica is a very small country, and maybe was not that well known. By being such successful coffee producers, more people became aware of the country of Costa Rica. Once Costa Rica became a more popular country, their tourism most likely increased. Not many people would go to Costa Rica when it wasn’t so popular, but coffee made it popular. This was another source of income generated for the country since tourism is such a large part of their income today.
I also don’t think the Ticos are getting the short end of the stick by having so much good coffee sent elsewhere. There is so much coffee made that some of it has to be exported. Therefore, there will be good coffee leaving the country. That doesn’t mean the Ticos are left with bad coffee. Earlier this trip when we visited Doka and Café Britt, we were told Britt was mainly successful based on their marketing, while Doka had great coffee. Doka also sold more locally than Britt did. Therefore, in this instance most people would say the Ticos got the better coffee. From personal experience, I would also say the coffee here is better than the coffee from home. For example, today we had coffee from a Starbucks farm and Café Rey. Personally, I liked the coffee from Café Rey, and they sell a lot more locally than Starbucks does. Throughout this whole trip, I would say my top three site visits in terms of coffee quality would be Doka, Café de Monteverde, and Café Rey, the three that sell the most locally. Even the coffee that my host mom makes is better than at home. By no means am I saying they export bad coffee, because it is still great, but the coffee they keep in Costa Rica is just that much better.
I believe Costa Ricans found a gold mine in coffee growing. Their natural resources allow them to excel in growing the coffee, and they have developed an expertise in turning those ripe, healthy cherries into a delicious cup of coffee. Their income from exports increase because of it, and their success puts their name on the map, increasing tourism. And to top it all off, the Ticos still get to keep the best of the coffee.