Brazil’s coffee farmers, struggling with the effect of last year’s drought, have turned to another black commodity — pepper.
In a desperate search for an alternative source of income, an increasing number of growers in the state of Espirito Santo, the key producer of the lower-quality coffee robusta beans, have switched to black pepper, whose price more than tripled between 2009 and 2015.
“Four years ago, we didn’t see any pepper grown in Espirito Santo,” says Carlos Mera, an analyst at Rabobank, who has just returned from a crop tour around Brazil, the world’s leading coffee producer. “Three years ago, you saw a little and last year that increased. Now you can see hills covered with pepper plants.”