Raising troops and prices for the coffee harvest

The coffee harvest is underway on the volcanic mountain slopes of El Salvador.  And for the coffee sector in El Salvador, there was some good news as world coffee prices have rebounded recently.  Coffee prices have jumped some 25% in recent weeks as smaller world supplies are forecast because of poor harvests in Honduras and elsewhere.

The price increase represents a little bit of good news for the coffee industry in El Salvador which has been struggling in recent years.   Coffee exports from the country have declined by half over the past 10 years.

Another factor challenging coffee farmers is extortion by the country's street gangs. Coffee farmers must pay protection payments to the gangs, or employ armed security to protect the harvest. It is a battle between coffee farmers and gangsters which can turn deadly.

This year, the government rolled out a public security plan for the coffee harvest.  The government plans to send 3300 police agents and soldiers out into the countryside to provide security for the 50,000 agricultural workers involved in the annual harvest. 

At InsightCrime, they question whether this coffee harvest security plan is more public relations than effective security measure in an article titled Can Armed Soldiers Really Solve El Salvador’s Coffee Woes?  They write:
The misplaced decision to deploy troops to protect coffee seems to be a continuation of Bukele’s “mano duro” policies — an approach that is gaining him support. A poll conducted by Prensa Gráfica in August showed that a large percentage of Salvadorans report feeling safe in places they frequently visit, such as their neighborhoods and supermarkets, reported AS/COA. Further, according to the same poll, two-thirds of citizens also have a positive view of the police force. 
The Bukele administration’s move to deploy troops to coffee farms will not have much of an effect on larger concerns for coffee farmers, which include major loss of productivity due to climate change and leaf rust fungus, as well as massive debts. Bean prices have also been hit hard recently, reaching their lowest monthly average in about 13 years in April 2019, according to the International Coffee Organization. 
The criminal issue that has persisted on coffee farms is extortion, including on the payroll: gangs coerce farmers to create no-show jobs for their members. But the presence of additional law enforcement is unlikely to help as extortion is El Salvador’s pre-eminent criminal economy.