El Salvador Coffee History

A brief overview of the El Salvador coffee history, classified and presented in three periods. Our country history started more than a century ago, We´ve been growing coffee since 1,800´s hundred.

First Period covered 1846-1900

• 1845, a program of road construction developed substantial improvements between the main production centers (Sonsonate, Santa Ana, San Miguel, Port of Acajutla and La Union) in order to facilitate to move coffee sacks to the ports to be exported.

• 1853, El Salvador signed the first trade agreement with the United States.
In the same year, the ship called the “First” inaugurated the first regular steamship line linking the ports of Central America, including Acajutla, La Libertad and La Union, to California.

• 1857, coffee plantations face a development and a large number of workers were employed around Santa Ana, Ahuachapán and Sonsonate.

• 1861, first statistical report given by the Governor of Santa Ana indicating the existence of 1.6 million coffee plants in nurseries, 69 thousand transplanted plants and 60 thousand coffee trees in production.

• 1860-1880, accelerated development of coffee growing is observed. For the year 1879, the department of Usulutan, had established and distributed a coffee nursery up to 819 thousand plants.Coffee production was promoted by the state, promoting economic and liberal policies that began after 1870.

• 1880, International Bank is founded to responded to the credit problems faced by farmers due to the high investment required at the new coffee plantations. Goverment reduced export taxes and the state started to collect import taxes.
The National Government and Municipal gave up thousands of coffee plants to producers from different social classes, from really small coffee grower to the bigger ones.

• 1881-1882, the Goverment start  privatized large wastelands, national property to sell them at low prices. It also decreed the abolition of communal lands, in order to promote individual ownership and national development, thus strengthening private property.
Improvements to roads and a new orientation of the transport system allowed solving the problems of mobilization of crops.

• 1882, through the telegraph and submarine cable with which the country had, coffee growers could be informed daily from international coffee prices.

• 1885, the railroad is built between the main coffee areas around Sonsonate, Santa Ana, San Salvador and Puerto de Acajutla.
Increased coffee consumption in the industrialized countries of Europe and North America and thus increase the demand for coffee at a better price.

Importantly, the Goverment not only sought to increase coffee production, but also develop commercial and agricultural economy. Finally the growth of coffee production that occurred in El Salvador was made possible by the technical, economic and political factors; becoming of the cultive of “hope”, giving a big boost to the main source of national wealth.
Thanks to the expansion of coffee farming, it can be said that in less than a quarter of a century El Salvador emerged from geographical isolation and was released from the forced exports from Guatemala.

Second period from 1846-1900


Thanks to the expansion of coffee farming in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, important changes were observed:
• Access to education and vaccination campaign for Salvadorian society.

• Infrastructure such as were built: the Rosales Public Hospital, National Theatre, Santa Ana´s Theatre; and sanitation works (water and sewage), electrical system, the main streets of San Salvador were asphalted.

• Foreign investment for production, financing and export of coffee by groups of European immigrants.

• Support institutions coffee growing as Banco Hipotecario, the Salvadorian Coffee Company, the National Department of Coffee, El Salvador Coffee Association, Federation of Credit Unions and the Central Bank were created.

• Economic measures were taken: set the exchange rate (2.50 ¢ / $ 1); Moratorium Act is issued; signing trade agreements such as the Inter-American Coffee Agreement.

• It is in this period that the world coffee market is affected by two major crises: The First World War and the global recession in 1932 and lasted until the end of the Second World War.

• 1929, Salvadorian economy showed great dependence on coffee farming, accounting for 95% of total exports. Any variation in prices meant weakness or progress for the people.

• 1932, As a result of the global crisis, international prices reflected a reduction percentage greater than 200%. In the country, this meant a contraction of the economy. The coffee farmers did not cover their production costs or the value of credits granted; thus losing their farms due to repossessions executed by credit grantors. On coffee farms works were not performed and the crops are not collected in full, leading to unemployment in the rural sector. Also in the urban sector, an environment was created unemployment and wages was reduced to 30% because the national budget could not cover the expenses.

• The stability or instability of the country was directly related to the events of international coffee prices.

Third Period covered 1950-2000

• In the 1950´s, El Salvador was living an economic boom, where the international price of coffee is quoted in 1955 at US $ 70.90 per bag, representing an increase of 217%.

• Due to the experience of the country’s dependence on an export product, they decided to promote cotton cultivation further strengthen the Salvadorian economy. In this decade it was known as the “golden decade”.

• In this period the Coffee Research Institute to strengthen research and technology transfer is created. Subsequently, as a private entity, in the 1990´s, It had called PROCAFE.

• 1979-1980, emerged reforms to the marketing of coffee, which happens to be a private activity to a national. 1989 coffee marketing is privatized again.
Source: Monograph coffee, the El Salvador Coffee Asociation.



And now We are experiencied a problems like in 1930´s because of the international prices, low coffee crops, problems with farming working due to the delinquency, and specially for the fungus disease call Roya. A lot of coffee farmers are loosing their farms because they can´t pay the credits, Goverment is doing nothing to help them, so a few of us still fighting and looking for new ways to comercialize our coffee that still is known as one of the best coffee around the world.

This is a little piece of El Salvador Coffee History like I said We are trying to keep farming and keep fighting to have our coffee.

If you like this please leave your feedback in the comments area I love to hear from you and know what you think about it.


  1. Thanks so much for this timeline, i will be travelling to El Salvador in the coming weeks and found this very useful and informative!

    • I like this and feel really good to help you please if you have any other questions let me know we love to help

  2. I never gave much of a thought to coffee history. I will think about your post the next time I have a cup of coffee. great knowledge.

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