story / editorial
by Thomas Tomczyk
Honduran Coffee Bean
American/Roatan transplant to Copan Ruinas finds new
methods at growing and selling coffee
1997 the price of coffee on the world market has halved,
reaching its lowest point in September 2001. But for
the 115,000 Honduran coffee farmers, tables are slowly
turning. The country, one of the world's top ten coffee
producers, is slowly gaining a better renown on the
world coffee markets and Honduras' World Arabica coffee
prices have doubled from 63 cent per pound in 2003
to $1.18 in 2006.
Coffee accounted for 21.6% of all Honduran exports
in 2002 and revenues increased to $182.5 million,
still well below the $340 million recorded in 2000.
The crop still remains Honduras's biggest export,
ahead of bananas and shellfish. Several foreigners
are involved in producing the country's top quality
coffee. Here is a story of one of them, who's roots
are very much tied with Bay Islands.
Davidson is tall, slim and energetic, His appearance
could be summed-up with one word: driven. Lloyd's fame
as a successful founder and owner of a fishing and packing
plant "Flying Fish" on Roatan, preceded him
to the hills of Copan.
The local coffee growers used to call Lloyd and his
crew 'los Camaroneros' [the shrimpers], but the Americans
soon found a helping hand and advice among several of
the local community members. Some of them realized that
even though Lloyd knew relatively little about coffee
growing, he knew much more than any of them about selling
and marketing this product.
In 2001 Lloyd launched his Miramundo coffee brand, marked
with a recognizable toucan logo and decided to have
his finca [farm] be an environmental leader in the area.
There are several designations that an eco-coffee farm
can strive for: sustainable coffee, eco-sustainable
coffee, bird friendly coffee, shade grown coffee, organic
coffee. "Most people in the coffee industry don't
understand this designation, much less the consumer,"
says Lloyd. "Organic is pretty extreme and most
people just can't afford to play with it." Miramundo
follows the eco-sustainable coffee guidelines outlined
by Rainforest Alliance. Farms that don't damage the
environment, treat the workers fairly, etc.
During his second season in the coffee business, Lloyd
was already making sales to Europe and the news of the
unconventional Yankee traveled fast. Honduran coffee
buyers noticed the potential of Lloyd's business approach.
" These guys don't know what they are doing
yet. But, they listen and I recommend we start working
with them,'" said Lloyd about one of the first
coffee buyers who came to Miramundo.
Lloyd, one of only handful foreign coffee growers in
Honduras joined the country's specialty growers association.
Still there are other Americans in the Honduran coffee
business. Another quality coffee, Buenas Dias Coffee
of Olancho, is owned by another American living in Roatan.
road to the Miramundo finca leads up a seven kilometer
road up the mountains. From there a vista of green tranquility
and rolling hilltops provides a 360 degree panorama.
The hills around Copan Ruinas are covered in pine and
thick and deep green coffee plants. The slopes, with
their thick coat of topsoil and organic matter, are
gradually turned into terraces to prevent erosion and
ease work on the plants. Bananas and guillero plants
are planted to provide the shade for the developing
coffee. They will provide shade for the first two to
three years until the coffee plants are mature.
Even though Miramundo coffee is shade grown, since it
is grown on high altitude, the cloud presence reduces
their dependency of shade trees. Too much shade will
produce a beautiful leafy plant, but with few coffee
The finca that Lloyd found east of Copan Ruinas was
planted with coffee plants only two years before he
bought it in 1999 from a Honduran preacher turned Coffee
planter. After coffee prices hit their highest in the
nineties, the industry has attracted people from around
Honduras. Then the bottom fell out as world prices plummeted,
and "Everything was for sale," says Lloyd.
"This guy was lucky enough to find some idiot from
Tennessee that was willing to take it over."
The Miramundo finca spans the hilltops and valleys around
Miramundo mountain between 1,100 and 1,250 meters. Of
its 140 acres, 60-70 acres are devoted to coffee at
1,800 coffee plants per acre, or around 120 thousand
plants on the entire finca. Lloyd plans another 10 acres
of coffee leaving the other 60 as natural forests for
nature trails and eco tourism. There are two natural
waterfalls, a swimming pool, and trails around the finca.
Lloyd plans to add another 10 acres of coffee plants.
has based much of his coffee planting and producing
strategy on the Guatemalan Coffee Institute guidelines.
"The locals [Honduran] guys were telling us we
were doing everything wrong," explains Lloyd. "But
we decided we will give it a try." Even though
the Honduran coffee institute encourages the planting
of the Cartamore coffee plant ,Lloyd explains that the
Cartamore coffee plant is much more susceptible to fungal
diseases above 1,000 meter.
Catamore, a smooth tasting bean, works best in low altitudes
and many coffee farmers that decided to plant Cartamore
on mountain slopes, are now in a constant struggle with
the fungi during the more humid months of November and
The Catoaee brand was a better option for Miramundo and
in September 2005 Lloyd decided to switch, and over the
next two years replace every Cartamore plant with its
more sturdy, altitude resistant, Catoaee equivalent.For
the first two to three years, banana trees are used to
shade the Catoaee plants. After that Guaomo legume trees
are planted to provide the shade to the now three to four
feet high plant. Guamo trees also trap the needed nitrogen
in the soil and are used as firewood by the locals. "Your
production has a lot to do with fertilization, weeding,
and maintenance of the shade," explains Lloyd.A coffee
plant can be harvested two years after planting. The maturity
is reached when the plant is four years old and plants
are harvested until they are 10 to 12 years old, and begin
to produce fewer beans. At that point the plant can be
either ripped out and substituted by another, or cut back
to 16 inches above the soil. In Honduras, the practice
of trimming the plant is used more frequently. From the
most productive plants three to four sprouts are chosen
to form a seedling for another generation of coffee plants.
This cutting and plant managing is constantly done across
most fincas in Honduras. Typically on the country's coffee
fincas, the plants are trimmed three to four times before
being completely replaced, but there are also fincas with
plants as old 70-80 years.
The plants will typically be picked through, or cut, five
to six times during the November-February coffee harvest
season. The two cuts in the middle of the season account
for 60% and some of the best quality of the entire product.
Still, the quality of Honduran coffee is not considered
as good as that of Guatemala or Costa Rica, and many of
the country's growers struggle to receive an independent
assessment of their coffee product in order to get better
prices at world markets.
To avoid being dependent on the plants of the Honduran
institute, three years ago Lloyd started his own coffee
plant nursery. The beans from the most productive plants
are dried to about 26% and planted in plastic bags, placed
in shade and prepared for planting. Underneath fern shade
canopies, Lloyd has produced around 25-30 thousand coffee
plants, that he has re-planted around the finca.
coffee plantation is very water intensive. To maximize
water use, Miramundo finca's five springs are dammed and
piped to a water pool. Even planting is typically done
when there is two-three months of good rain: September,
October or May, June.
At the farm, a 90-foot-long Ecosystem gravity water machine,
separates beans based on size and weight. In the process
the machine washes and de-pulps the coffee beans. "God
made it that good beans sink and bad beans float,"
says Lloyd. Using that basic principle, coffee beans are
separated into good and bad, washed and then peeled from
the pulp. The beans are separated into first, second and
third quality and left overnight to ferment. Saul Alvarez,
the farm manager for four years, is responsible for the
day to day operations.
Once the water is used to wash the beans, it becomes extremely
rich with nutrients and potentially harmful in its rich
content. To lessen this impact, the water is not dumped
directly into the ground, but sprayed over vast areas
around the finca. Another way of dealing with used water-
evaporation ponds, were not considered because of how
smelly and insect- producing they can be.
After that the beans are sun dried and packed into bags.
After a few weeks the coffee will be roasted, and some
of it will be grounded and packaged in sacks or plastic
airtight bags with the Miramundo toucan logo. Beans, dried
to about 10-12%, are ready for export. In 2005 Miramundo
harvested around 100-120 thousand pounds of coffee which
in the end produced 50-60 tons of dried, roasted coffee.
Honduras, a typical day laboring coffee picker, is paid
per volume, or per five gallon bucket. "To be more
precise, we tried to shift them to get paid in pounds,
but that didn't fly and we almost had a revolution,"
says Lloyd. Miramundo's between 20 to 200 daily pickers
are paid a bit more per bucket than they would at surrounding
farms. "We get them a couple lempiras extra, telling
them to focus on the red beans and minimalize the green
beans," says Lloyd. "That has a lot to do with
the quality of coffee."
The best pickers pick as many as six buckets a day. But
a 'picker' isn't always one person ,as sometimes an entire
family will work as a unit: mother working the top of
the coffee plant, while bigger children pick the middle
and small ones, picking the bottom of every plant. The
school year in Honduras' coffee growing seasons accommodates
the necessity for children's help in the coffee picking
season. While one can't get rich picking coffee beans,
the harvest supports hundreds of local families.
Honduran coffee picker is paid as little as one dollar
for five gallon of coffee beans.
The pay that a picker receives, is directly related to
world coffee prices, and in early 2006 they were paid
Lps. 20-22 a bucket. But when the coffee prices hit bottom
in 2001 the pickers worked for as little as Lps. 10. The
workers aren't too happy about providing their name to
the finca. As many are illiterate they typically just
make a mark confirming that they received a payment for
the two weeks of work.
story / editorial
/ local news
______________back to top
often hear pragmatic westerners pronounce either one of two
generalizing phrases about religion. One- "All religions
are good, same in principles and bound to live together peacefully."
The other- "all religions are basically the same: violent
I believe neither of these points of views is true. Religions
are not the same. They provide different approaches to interfaith
existence, behaviour and some have basic fundamental flaws.
There is very little dialog about these controversial topics.
Discussing relations between faiths, their conflicts, contradictions,
and history is a taboo. The religious conflicts that saturate
the news pages in the West are stereotyped as ethnic and racial.
There is a confusion of terms and inability to even correctly
label them: religious cleansing, ethnic cleansing, racism.
The militant Islam is called fascist, the religious terrorists
are mislabeled insurgents. The West is unable to face or analyze
the threat to its core existence.
While Western materialism has rendered much of the Christian
beliefs irrelevant to European lives, the westerners are wrong
to assume that religion will become irrelevant to people who
move there from other parts of the religious world.
Some religions have in the past integrated into the European
and American melting pots, others have not. Islam has a history
and principles that forbid such integration, and nothing,
despite wishful thinking on part of many Europeans, has shown
to contradict this phenomena.
How can the West deal with unapologetic, angry, unforgiving,
and accusatory Islam, while western leaders are excusing Muslims
as victims and the West is readily accepting the role of the
victimizer? The common version of events, is that West was
and still is, a colonizer, responsible for genocide of Jews,
the Crusades, etc. Guilt, a natural feeling in the Judeo-Christian
culture has dominated the West's core to the point of self
hatred. Westerners are readily accepting blame for past and
present, blaming their church leaders, or imperialist, colonial
Muslims are well organized and voice their protests on a global
scale when they feel their faith is being attacked by cartoons,
medieval papal quotations, or interrogation techniques. I
see apologies and acts of contrition coming from Popes, European
politicians, and US presidents. They in turn are unwilling
to judge by the same token the violent and atrocious acts
of beheadings, bombings and Islamic press ridicule done by
Muslims. What I never saw was an apology from an Islamic group,
or prominent Islamic leaders.
One of the problems in getting such statements, is that Islam,
which unlike Christianity or Buddhism, is a decentralized
religion, lacks religious authorities on global scale. There
is also the concept of 'tribal' solidarity of not going against
your Muslim enemy if he is at war with non-Muslim is a simple
fact. This is also the principal reason why no Iraqi people
directly help or inform the US against fighting the foreign
born jihadists. Muslims would rather be wrong together than
While Europeans remain paralyzed in what to do with their
20 million Muslim minority, most of them don't realize that
several western European countries had substantial Muslim
populations in the past, following centuries of Islamic conquests
and expansion. When after countries they regained control
of their Muslim occupied lands, Muslims were forced to convert
and integrated into the society, or had to leave. Spain, Portugal,
France, Sicily, Greece all made these choices.
This is by no means an uncommon practice in the Muslim world.
As recently as the 20th century, Turkey's Armenians, the Algerian
French, or Italians in Libya all had to leave their Muslim
dominated birthplace. In Honduras, tens of thousands of Christian
Arabs from Palestine, Lebanon, and Jordan fled Islamic religious
persecution to settle here in the early 20th century.
Islam is the only religion which punishes apostasy by death.
Forbidding members of a religion or any organization to leave
by threat of death, as uncomfortable as it may read, is a
definition of a cult.
Muslim minorities as a rule, after centuries of living in
their host nations, weather in China, Thailand, and Poland,
never integrated into their non-Muslim host societies. Why?
"Our beliefs are superior. We will never integrate,"
said a British Muslim being Interviewed on BBC. Such candid
expressions to the non Muslim public are rare, but reflect
a universal belief of the Muslims towards all other religions.
story / editorial
/ local news
Fire Destroys 15 Houses
Loma residents on the site of the fire. Olga Rodriguez (owner of
burned Tienda Nena), Juana Velasquez (owner of burned house), Carolina
Brooks (owner of burned JC Penney store) and Nora White (Neighbor).
and churches like Little Friends Foundation, ORDECIB, Pentecostal
and Seventh Day Adventist Church immediately stepped in to provide
meals and clothing for the victims. For three weeks following the
fire, the victims received food and clothing.The very high occupancy
rate and dense, wood construction provided an opportunity for the
fire to catch and spread quickly. According to Joseph Solomon, Chief
of Roatan Municipal Police, in one case one room was occupied by two
adults and eight children. In total 135 people from 28 families were
displaced. 75% of them were Mosquito Indian families from the coast
who rented apartments in La Loma, while the men worked on French Harbour
fishing vessels."We blame RECO for the fire," said Nova
White, 58, one of the La Loma residents, who said that the fire was
caused by sparks generated by the company's faulty equipment. In the
days following the fire, Bay Islands Governor, Roatan Mayor, Bay Islands
Congressman and even President Mel Zelaya visited the site of the
La Loma residents believe that the Honduran government, through its
disaster relief organization COPECO, and local government, will step
in and rebuild their houses. A similar precedent gives them hope,
when in 1993 another fire destroyed 12 houses in La Loma in an area
directly adjacent to the recent fire.
The cause of the fire is believed to have been caused by an accident
and the Honduran government rebuilt the houses, giving the residents
a long term loan to pay for the reconstruction. "Some people
repaid the government loans, others are still paying and others never
did," said Nora White, 58, La Loma resident.
wood and concrete houses in French Harbour's La Loma neighborhood
burned to the ground on October 13. At 1:30am fire engulfed a wood
structure just south of the French Harbour Bus station. The density
of the development was such that the changing wind carried flames
from one structure to the next, eventually engulfing 15 homes, six
of which were used also as stores.
Private water trucks owned by Woods Supply, Kenny McNab, Dale Jackson
and water pumps provided by Bob McNab, amongst others, supplied water
to the fire truck that, according to several residents, arrived at
the scene around 2:30am. "Some people were helping, some were
stealing, it was a bit of everything," described Orlando White,
27, La Loma resident who helped during the fire. Some people carried
seawater in buckets. By 4:30am, after three hours, the fire was contained.No
one died during the fire, but Doña Angelia was hospitalized
with severe burns as the fire engulfed her house and only her grandson
Jossie was able to take her out from the burning structure.
Bust at Roatan Airport
of the night seizure of 2000 kilos of cocaine off a private plane
Anti Drug Agents and Preventiva police unload seized 2000 kilo of
cocaine at the Mud Hole garbage dump to be destroyed. With US street
value of one kilo of cocaine at $180,000 the burn destroyed $360
million of the illegal product, or 64% percent of the country's
foreign aid budget, or around 20% of Honduras' annual foreign exports.
US embassy officials were not present during the procedure.
drug traffickers alternate between Guanaja, Utila, and Roatan airports
as their Columbia to US half way drug runs, a major drug bust takes
place on Manuel Galvez runway. On November 4, around 1am, a 10 seat
Columbian registered Cesna airplane, landed at Roatan Airport.
Four Columbian men traveling in the plane were assisted by people
on the ground in unloading 2000 kilos of cocaine. This was transferred
to a white, covered truck, and they began to refuel the Cesna airplane.
Tourist officers from Coxen Hole station located barely 100 meters
from the airport, were alerted by the noise of the landing aircraft
and contacted the Preventiva police. The police arrived at the scene
within 20 minutes.
12 people were arrested: four Columbian nationals, two of them pilots,
and eight Hondurans. The arrests included six airport officials:
a tower control supervisor, Inters Roatan Airport manager, and several
airport security employees were arrested.
A small boat was found near the airport.
Later in the morning, Alan Padilla, La Ceiba Airports Interairports
chief, took over the administration of Roatan's airport which remained
closed until 10:30 am. Honduras' antinarcotics director, general Julián
Arístides González, was directing the investigation.
While landing and drug transfers are not unusual on Guanaja and Utila,
Roatan International Airport has been les vulnerable to these actions.
Honduran police suspect that as military and naval forces were taking
action to limit the use of Guanaja's airport by drug traffickers,
it is probable that the traffickers decided to move their operations
In 2006 the Honduran navy confiscated 14 speed boats and eight fishing
vessels in relation to drug trafficking. Also three airplanes were
seized, two of them on Roatan.
story / editorial
/ local news
Peace of Mind by
Islands' Insurance Businesses Provide Affordable Ways to Protect
Have you heard the story of the airplane that accidentally leaked
"blue ice" while flying over a residential area and
sent the frozen delivery careening through someone's roof? Well,
if you haven't heard about it, it can happen. It's messy, and
you may want to consider insuring yourself against such an unwanted
Things falling from airplanes are just one of the many risks you
can insure yourself against on Roatan and the Bay Islands. We
talked with Roatan insurance agents Arlie Thompson and Giovanni
Silvestri to get the lowdown on what you should know about insurance
on the island.
Insurance on Roatan is underwritten by Seguros El Ahorro Hondureño
S.A., a company that has been in operation since 1917 and boasts
Banco del Istmo, one of the largest financial groups in Central
America, as its primary shareholder. Seguros El Ahorro Hondureño
is internationally rated AA- in the Fitch Risk Classification
system- the highest rating among Honduran financial institutions
in banking and insurance. The rating is assigned based in part
on the stability of the primary shareholder and in part on the
stability of the company itself, in terms of debt capacity, reserve
coverage, and availability of funds.
The growth of the insurance industry here on the island has mirrored
the growth of the foreign community and is growing steadily. Insurance,
in all of its forms, is available to both Hondurans and foreigners.
Temporary visitors, however, are uninsurable by island insurance
agents and should seek special travel insurance plans in their
country of origin.
Although a growing number of native islanders insure their homes,
health, and property, Arlie Thompson of A.T. Insurance, estimates
that his clientele are 60% foreign and only 40% Honduran. Beside
Thompson's French Harbour office there are two other insurance
agents in the island department: Giovanni Silvestri in French
Harbour and Kent Wildt in Coxen Hole.
When considering insurance there are three main categories to
look into: personal, business and property. Life and health insurances
are the best way to financially insure your person and your family
against health related accidents, sickness, disabilities and/or
deaths that may result in lack of income. Property insurance can
protect your home and assets, depending on the plan, against fire,
theft, natural disasters and even malicious acts or riots. With
just a little tweaking this type of plan becomes suited for a
business instead of an individual.
terms of health insurance, there are various plans that can insure
you and your family ranging in coverage from $325,000 to $2 million.
The insurance ranges from Central American to International coverage,
including evacuation services should Honduran facilities not be
able to meet your care needs.
Children are covered on the parent's plan until they reach the age
of 21 or are no longer full-time students. Although no plan may
be cancelled at any point, they are not without exclusions. For
island residents who dive: the bends are not covered. "Scuba
diving," says Arlie Thompson, "is considered to be a high-risk
activity, which is therefore excluded from all health insurance
policies." Other exclusions include any pre-existing illnesses
as well as the purchase of a medical plan after the age of 62.
Property insurance is designed to protect a family and their assets
from common risks such as theft, personal accidents, etc. A basic
plan can be upgraded to include fire, flooding, natural disasters,
riots, smoke, vehicle collision, and objects falling from airplanes.
It is also possible to take out a plan insuring electronic equipment.
One of the most important and easiest forms of insurance overlooked
on Roatan and Utila, is auto insurance. In Honduras auto insurance
is not mandatory unless the purchase of the car is being financed.
However, with the growing number of vehicles on the island, most
of which are uninsured, Thompson believes that auto insurance may
be the most important type of insurance to consider when settling
here on Roatan. Other means of transportation such as boats and
planes can also be insured on the island.