The first step in the commodity chain for coffee beans is harvesting. Coffee “cherries” are picked from trees. The cherries each contain two beans(“Overview of The Supply Chain”). It takes about 3 to 4 years for new coffee trees to begin to bear the cherries. When the cherries are ripe and ready to be harvested they turn a bright, deep red. The cherries have to be harvested regularly or they will become over ripe within 10 to 14 days. One tree itself will produce an average of two to four kilos of cherries. A good harvester can harvest between 100 and 200 pounds of coffee cherries a day. That will then produce between 20 and 40 pounds of coffee beans.
Two methods of harvesting are “Strip Picked” or “Selectively Picked”. Strip Picking is when the entire crop is harvested at one time. This can be done by hand or by machine. The cherries are all removed off the branch at one time. The second way, Selectively Picked is when only the ripe cherries are harvested. In this method the cherries are picked individually and by hand. Every 8 to 10 days pickers circle around the tree choosing only the cherries at the peak of ripeness. Once the process of harvesting is over, the harvest is weighed and the pickers are paid(“Harvesting”).
A problem farmers come to face is that many of them receive less than the price of production for their harvests. This causes the both poverty and debt to the farmers. The farmers are forced to sell them to middlemen who pay them only half the market price. The price is usually $.30 to $.50 per pound. Family farmers will only bring in a yearly income of between $500 to $1000 for their coffee.(“Coffee Production and Labor”)
The harvest is then sent to the processing plant (“Harvesting”).