Coffee growers in the Colombian Andes say a drought caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon is threatening their crops, some of the world’s most prized coffee beans.
Raul Fajardo, 56, who grows coffee beans on the slopes of the Galeras volcano, fears the harvest “is about to be lost”.
“We farmers are in total despair,” he said.
His four-hectare estate is one of many in Narino, south-western Colombia, certified as a top coffee-producing region for its mellow-tasting, fine-smelling produce.
Surveying his plantation, Mr Fajardo said a recent water shortage was “stressing” his coffee plants.
The stalks have flowered and could yield a record crop, but they need more rain to do so.
“It has been nearly six months and they forecast it will be like this for five months more,” Mr Fajardo said.
“That would ruin farmers in this region.”
Farmers say coffee from Narino “is the best in Colombia” because the extra hours of sunlight means a higher concentration of sugar in the grain.
But extreme weather is making it an ever-greater challenge to keep producing the beans for the world’s cafes.
The unusually warm temperatures caused in the Pacific waters around the equator by El Niño typically lead to less rain in South America, and this year have caused a severe drought in Colombia.
Authorities say it is likely to worsen as of December and could last until June next year.
“The worst is yet to come. The critical months will be December, January and February,” Colombian environment minister Gabriel Vallejo said.
Some regions, including the Andes, are suffering a 60 per cent decrease in rainfall, according to the state environmental institute IDEAM.
“We are being hit hard by this long summer,” said Gilberto Diaz, another farmer in Narino, who has been working in the coffee business for 30 years.
“Around here there are estates of just a few hectares. It is all very basic and there are no irrigation systems.
“We are having to bring water up from the gorges, and there is very little left.”