At the beginning of the 18th century, coffee from Cuba and the Dominican Republic reached the shores of Mexico, but commercial cultivation only began in 1790, mainly due to German and Italian immigrants arriving from Guatemala and Central America. The first plantations known about were in the Veracruz region facing the Atlantic. The coffea Arabica plants subsequently found ideal conditions in the southernmost part of the country, in the regions of Oaxaca, Puebla and in particular Chiapas, bordering Guatemala. The rich mineral production, in particular gold and silver, and the incessant political instability following independence from Spain, slowed down significantly the development of the agricultural sector in the country. Many small producers were only encouraged to invest seriously in the coffee sector following the land reforms after the Mexican Revolution and the Ley Des Obreros in 1914.
In 1973, the National Coffee Institute of Mexico (INMECAFE) was established to support small producers by providing technical assistance, easier access to credit and logistical support. The years that followed were a boom from a production point of view and in some areas there was even an increase of 900%. However, since the 1980s the Mexican government has been seriously hit by the economic crisis. This was caused mainly by the slump in oil prices – the country´s main export – and a heavy foreign debt common to all Latin America at that time. The cultivators subsequently lost any type of support and even INMECAFE collapsed definitively in 1989. The effects were devastating for all operators in the coffee sector, aggravated furthermore by the fall in prices caused by the stream of cheap coffee from Brazil.
The creation of cooperatives such as CEPCO and UCIRI filled the void left by INMECAFE and helped small cultivators survive, who would otherwise have been prey to ruthless looters. The development of cooperatives raised awareness and extended the production of certified organic coffee, a sector of the market which Mexico has today cornered.
Mexico is currently the 6th largest producer in the world. 92% of total production is entrusted to small cultivators, whose extension of cultivated land does not exceed 5 hectares. The most widespread botanical species are L Garnica – a Mundo Novo and Caturra hybrid -, Bourbon (export island of Bourbon and now Reunion, from where it took its name) and finally Maragogype.