10 March 1999
Venezuela rediscovers coffee

COFFEE growers in Venezuela are boosting production and quality and staging a gradual comeback on international markets, reports the Financial Times.

Once the countrys leading cash crop, Venezuelan coffee has long been overshadowed by oil.

But Venezuelas state coffee fund, Foncafe, believes production for the harvestending this September will reach a 50-year high of 1.8 million quintals (1.38m 60kg bags).

The industrys renaissance began in 1992, when Foncafe relinquished its monopoly on distributing coffee and fixing prices.

The deregulated sector attracted fresh investment capital but still produced only 1.2m quintals last year..

A prolonged economic crisis and a slump in consumer demand forced producers to look for overseas markets.

The biggest challenge facing Venezuelas coffee producers now is developing these markets and establishing a distinctive Venezuelan brand.