Coffee farmer welcomes Xi

Updated: 2013-06-05 01:57

By ZHU ZHE in San Jose, Costa Rica and Zhou Siyu in Beijing (China Daily)

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Great potential for cooperation in Costa Rica's agricultural sector

Farm owner Marco Zamora Alvarado, 77, and his family were busy brewing coffee on Monday afternoon hours before the arrival of a particularly distinguished guest from across the Pacific: Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Coffee farmer welcomes Xi

Zamora Alvarado, who has five children and five grandchildren, has been growing coffee near San Jose, the Costa Rican capital, for five generations.

He has two coffee farms, each covering about 2 hectares. On Monday afternoon, his coffee and banana trees bore a fresh, green gleam after recent rainfall.

"I really hope the Chinese president likes our coffee," he said.

At around 3:45 pm, Xi arrived with his wife Peng Liyuan. Wearing casual clothing, they had a brief tour of the family's house, which has two kitchens, a dining room and two bedrooms. The old-style wooden furniture is indicative of the house's age.

"Did you build the house yourself?" Xi asked Zamora Alvarado as Peng held the hand of the farmer's granddaughter, praising her beauty.

"Yes, and the rooms have been newly renovated," said Zamora Alvarado, who initially appeared a little nervous but seemed more comfortable when escorting Xi through his coffee farm.

The president asked plenty of questions about coffee trees: How many years can a tree live? What type of coffee trees did they plant? When is the harvest? Zamora Alvarado answered them one by one, fluently and confidently.

He told the president that he had arrived at a time when the coffee trees bloom. He then picked a flower for Xi.

"It has a very delicate fragrance, not very strong, just like Chinese jasmine," Xi said.

The president arrived in San Jose on Sunday evening to begin a state visit to the Central American country. He said he wanted to visit a Costa Rican family to get an idea of how local people live.

Xi said at the farm that Costa Rica could export more agricultural products to China as a growing number of young Chinese people learn to enjoy coffee.

As Xi commented on Alvarado's coffee, Xinia Quiros, the Costa Rican vice-minister of agriculture and livestock, said, "We do hope China can take more products from our country, particularly coffee."

She said the country produces 1.2 million bags of coffee a year, most of it being high-quality Arabic coffee. Each bag weighs about 46 kg.

"Japan takes 100,000 bags of our coffee every year. I think there is huge potential for our coffee exports to China." Some 800,000 to 1 million bags are for export, but only 5,000 bags go to China.

For Zamora Alvarado's youngest son, who helps his father plant the coffee trees, the prospects of exporting to China appear rosy.

"I know China is a big, big, big country," the 39-year-old said in broken English. "If China wants our coffee, maybe all coffee farmers here do not have to worry about a living."

China and Costa Rica have great potential to expand their cooperation in the agricultural sector, both in trade and in technological development, agricultural experts and officials said on Tuesday.

Costa Rica is currently the world's second-largest banana exporter, after Ecuador. Among its other main farm products are coffee and sugar cane.