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  • Jon Ferguson

Forecasting Quality & Volume: The Yield Factor

The ElevaFinca team based in Jaén continues to obtain data that may suggest a lower volume of coffee availability from the early harvest season, especially in the Amazonia region. Some organizations are forecasting a decrease between 10% and 15%. Peru is seeing an incredible increase in domestic prices compared to last year. Domestic prices continue to increase despite the downward adjustment of NY "C" prices seen from last week.


To further explore how weather and a volatile market influences volume and quality of coffee harvested in Peru, our newsletter this week will focus on what is known as the “yield factor” and how this impacts the overall coffee availability and cup quality in Peru.


Why the Yield Factor Matters


Although the number of fully dried bags of coffee parchment delivered by a producer to a cooperative is an important weight to consider, the amount of useable coffee within each bag reflects a more accurate indicator of the potential exportable amount and level of quality of coffee being produced. With this knowledge, buyers have better insight into the exportable volume and pricing expectations established throughout the annual harvesting cycle.


How the Yield Factor is Determined


The yield factor represents the overall percentage of good exportable coffee from the overall weight of coffee delivered by a producer. Upon delivery, coffee passes through several quality control inspections to determine the amount of usable green coffee from the overall weight of dry parchment received. This is usually determined before the final payment is provided to the coffee producer.


As described in our previous newsletter, we discussed the average weight loss percentages between dry parchment to finished exportable green coffee (parchment shell, debris, defects, etc). The percentage of defects fluctuates throughout the season and from one year to the next. These percentages are influenced by several environmental and economic conditions.


Yield Factor Equations are Unique


Each origin and processing method may have a slightly different approach to determining the yield factor. If coffee producers are required to deliver their coffee in cherry, this will greatly impact the evaluation process. For example, Colombia has a slightly different approach to constructing prices for coffee than Peru, even though it is delivered in dry parchment as well. For a more thorough explanation on how the yield factor is determined in Colombia, please visit The National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia website for more information.


Early Harvest Yield Factors in Peru


In a normal year, the average yield factor is around (60-65%). The ElevaFinca team in Jaén is currently seeing yield factors averaging close to (64%) which demonstrates normal results from the early harvest deliveries. This factor improves as the harvest progresses, reaching nearly 80% during the peak harvest. Currently, the average cup quality being produced in the Jaén area is around 81+ points, which represents the first early harvest deliveries from lower elevations between 1000-1200 masl.


There are many activities and conditions which influence yield factors. Good selective harvesting practices along with carefully monitoring wet milling and drying activities will influence the overall percentage of defects, debris, and moisture percentage in a producer’s delivered coffee. Early or late harvest deliveries will also see a greater number of defects due to the inconsistencies of fruit maturation on the coffee plant. Like vegetable gardens, not all tomatoes ripen on the same day, nor at the same rate. During the main harvest, yield factors increase with higher percentages of useable green coffee, as the harvest becomes flush with ripening red cherry.


The Weather


Conditions that allow harvesting activities to be successful are often determined by the weather. Peru has received heavier rainfall in February and March this year, which has complicated the harvesting, milling, and drying of coffee. As rains continue, it becomes difficult to harvest slowly and uniformly as it creates slick and muddy conditions for picking coffee. When there is too much cloud cover, the coffee will have difficulty drying. Most producers in the region do not have adequately covered drying facilities which can lead to issues such as phenol, mold, and other defects.


The Market


The internal costs have remained high in Peru, pressuring farmers to reduce the number of inputs needed and the adequate labor required to maintain a higher yield factor with a higher cup quality. As a response to rising costs, producers are likely to reduce the amount of fertilizer, labor, and additional infrastructure and activities which may help improve their yield factor. As the New York C market remains at an attractive price level to farmers, the financial incentives for delivering higher quality coffees which often demand greater financial investments in labor, time, inputs, and infrastructure have significantly declined.


A wetter harvesting season, higher internal costs of production and a NY C market that remains attractive for average coffee qualities has created a scenario for potentially creating lower yield factors throughout the harvest season.


Ways to Improve the Coffee Yield Factor


Improving the yield factor physically starts at the farm level. The weather and markets are often difficult to predict and impossible to control. Preparing to manage the volatility through investing in strategies that buffer these impacts are necessary to improve the overall yield potential and yield factor.


Potential investment strategies include:

  • Wet milling and drying infrastructure improvements at the farm.

  • Researching coffee varieties for greater resistance to pests and disease.

  • Land-use practices that improve and sustain soil health.

  • Micro-loan programs which provide access to long-term financial support for smallholder producers to help fund the infrastructural improvements listed above.

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