Coffee is Central America’s second largest export, accounting for more than ten percent of the world's exported coffee and generating around two million jobs in the region. In Nicaragua, one of Latin America’s least developed countries, agriculture is critical and accounts for about 30 percent of total employment. Mercon has been a key player in the country’s coffee industry, with 35 percent of the country's total coffee exports.
But climate shocks have made farming a struggle, particularly in the Caribbean Coast, one of the poorest regions of Nicaragua, where rain falls 10 months a year. Local roads that connect coffee-producing regions to larger communities are often flooded or washed away, and donkeys are considered among the most reliable forms of transportation—which makes market access challenging nearly year-round.
Mercon is working in partnership with IFC and the Private Sector Window of GAFSP to help strengthen its operations in Central America and support coffee producers along the coffee value chain. IFC and GAFSP’s recent investment and advisory support aims to improve the productivity of the coffee sector, promote business sustainability, and protect jobs in rural areas, driving recovery and growth in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala, where the coffee sector is an important contributor to the local economy. As part of the project, Mercon provides farmers with small loans to purchase plants, fertilizers, and other inputs to plant Robusta coffee plants. Robusta coffee, a species mostly used in instant coffee and espresso blends, thrives in the tropical climate of Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast, where it was first introduced in 2013. With support from IFC and GAFSP, Mercon is also providing training to local farmers, teaching planting, fertilizing, weed control, coffee tree maintenance, cherry picking, and harvest techniques.