Costa Rica Coffee – Los Santos and Wages

Workers pick coffee

Costa Rica workers pick coffee and get paid by the basket as little as $.60

Every time I come back from Costa Rica, my main import is coffee. I literally cram my bag with as much as I can without going over the weight limit. In fact, several years ago I got clipped with excessive baggage and had to pay extra.  However, this last trip was a bit different, in fact, I wished I had kept quite, I must have gotten 15 emails before I left on, “Yeah can you bring me back some coffee.”

Okay, I admit, I’m a Costa Rica coffee junkie and I have turned on God-knows how many on the rich-tasting roasted bean. Costa Rican coffee is high in both quality and caffeine content and because of that; it is often blended with inferior varieties for commercial use. And even if I like all the commercial brands like Cafe Milagro and Britt, I really prefer the tiny low-volume farm-specific coffee producers who now keep their lots separate, and either sells just the beans and/or mills it themselves where they keep total control of the process with the best possible flavors and the best prices. One can buy a kilo (2.2lbs) of coffee between 2-$4.

One of the best regions of coffee growing is “Los Santos.” The coffee is grown by  farmers at altitudes of over 5,100 feet. The coffee is worldwide known for its quality and the dedications the farmers have for their plantations. For example, Coopedota RL, located in the Santa Maria de Dora has over 700 farmers who produce in a co-op arrangement and has won many awards for its high quality.

Regardless if it is a major coffee grower or a small independent, the production of it  narrows down to the cheap, seasonal labor, most of which comes from Nicaraguan immigrants, that, like the US Mexican workers cross over due to Costa Rica’s low unemployment and higher standard of living. Workers receive only around 60¢ to $1.50 per basket picked. Each weights around 15 lbs. And a good worker can fill as many as 12 per day.  Although it seems by US standards low wages, rates are proportional to other Costa Rican agricultural salaries, whose minimum is set by government mandate and to average daily wage, which is around $20. So comparing that to the US, the Costa Rica laborer is getting more money than their counterparts in the U.S to product the best coffee in the world.

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  1. I agree. I think I would leave clothes behind if that means I can bring more coffee back. I am leaving in 3 weeks to head down. No I won’t bring you a bag back!! LOL

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