Feb. 4, 2015

José Fermín Núñez

Dominican Republic

José Fermín Núñez

Executive Director, Dominican Coffee Council (CODOCAFE)


José Fermín Núñez completed his studies in Agronomy at the Instituto Agronómico Salesiano. Since 2012, he has work as Executive Director of the Dominican Coffee Council (CODOCAFE), and led the Project to Rescue the Production Capacity of Coffee Plantations in the Dominican Republic through a social, economic, and environmental approach.

What is the level of competitiveness in the Dominican coffee industry at the moment?

The competitiveness of the coffee industry in the Dominican Republic is great, especially when we refer to foreign markets. This is because coffee of Dominican origin is appreciated by the large consumers in the coffee market for its attributes; it is unmatched for its excellent quality. This level of competitiveness will improve substantially over the coming years as we see the results of the Plantation Renewal Program with vegetative materials, and due to the high genetic quality that the government has been sponsoring through the Dominican Coffee Council.

Most of the Dominican Republic's producers are smallholders. Moreover, the more than 45,000 Dominican families producing coffee depend on it for their living. What support can the small-scale farmers count on in the Dominican Republic?

Producers will continue to have the support that allows them to organize in cooperatives, associations, and clusters that promote partnerships and thereby allow them to become micro entrepreneurs in the sector. There are coffee systems and technical assistance to qualify and orientate them in the management of their plantations to achieve higher yields. They are offered support such as the provision of bags and seeds, fertilizers and tools, and advice on the establishment and production of coffee plants in nurseries. These plantations have coffee rust disease resistance, high production capacity, and good quality. Road improvement programs in production areas and support in post harvest processes have benefited production.

Coffee rust has recently impacted on the entire coffee population in the Dominican Republic causing huge financial losses. What is the importance of the agreement that CODOCAFE signed with the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INDRHI) for controlling the disease in the Dominican Republic?

With this agreement, CODOCAFE implemented an Early Warning Program in coordination with the Bureau of Meteorology and with the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). We have 223 weather stations at our disposal across all rural areas. Through these we get information about weather that favors the growth and progression of the disease, allowing us to monitor the incident levels, and make timely recommendations for treatments to reduce and eliminate the fungus that affects plantations simultaneously. And we are able to do this in real time through mobile phones that record the weather data and incidences.

What other challenges is the coffee industry in the Dominican Republic facing?

The biggest challenge we have is to raise the level of productivity for the coffee plantations that right now are around 101 acres in size. We need to raise their technical performance levels, which means renewing plantations with coffee varieties of high production capacity that are resistant to diseases, and are adaptable to climate change. We also need to improve the planting density, have timely funding for the work, and maintain continued technical assistance and support.

Do you see the potential for the DR to expand in the coffee market?

The Dominican Republic, although it has lost a significant share in the international market as a result of the decrease in production, retains enormous potential due to the exceptional quality of Dominican coffee. The government's Plantation Renewal Program implemented through CODOCAFE contributes greatly to the expansion of production, and with that the country will be able to recover much of its lost ground. The high quality that Dominican coffee displays is more than enough to penetrate any discerning and demanding market today. Ultimately, Dominican coffee has significant potential because of its undisputed quality, coupled with the set of actions that are being implemented to further increase its quality to satisfy both domestic consumption and the international market.

What does the Dominican Republic offer in terms of quality and variety of coffee beans?

The quality of Dominican coffee has been steadily improving. We offer an interesting variety of coffees depending on the region, including Cibao Altura, Barahona, and Ocoa.

What are some of the actions that need to be implemented to increase exports?

Exports will increase to the extent production also increases in the country. To date we have renewed about 2,260 hectares of plantations. Domestic consumption has increased as reflected in reduced exports that are being processed by the local industry instead. The DR exports organic, roasted, and ground coffee to meet commitments in the existing markets held by several Dominican coffee brands and types. These have been recognized for their quality and flavor. We have excellent soil and climate for the production of high-quality coffee. With the policy of attracting investment to the country, this can be exploited to install large plantations and facilities.