Brazil is South America’s most influential and economically powerful country and one of the world’s largest economies. It also produces over a third of the world’s coffee, with over 5 million people in the country employed in the cultivation or harvest of over 3 billion coffee plants. The strength or weakness of the global coffee market is largely governed by what happens in Brazil, such is the size of its yearly harvest. El Nino – the weather system that dictates climatic conditions in the country during the summer months – also has a major impact on the coffee futures market.
Coffee was introduced to Brazil in 1720 in the southern state of Paraná and has since become the powerhouse of the coffee world, accounting for more than a third of all coffee produced. Legend has it that around that time, the Brazilian government had wanted a cut of world coffee production, and sent Lt. Col. Francisco de Melo Palheta to French Guiana on the pretence of mediating on a border dispute. Aware that he would not be allowed to visit the closely guarded coffee plantations, the lieutenant instead used his charms to woo the first lady of Guiana and encouraged her to give him the coffee seedlings he wanted. She presented him with a bouquet laced with coffee seeds at a farewell banquet held in his honour, which he took back to Brazil. Whether this tale can really be attributed to Brazil’s introduction to coffee cannot be proved, but there can be no doubt that now, in the 21st century, Brazil’s dominance in world production is unrivalled. Annual crops as high as 60 million bags are becoming common place.