A landlocked state in central South America, Bolivia borders Brasil, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile and Peru. Most Bolivians live in the high plateau within the Andes ranges.

The lowlands range between dense Amazon forest in the northeast and semi-arid grasslands in the southeast. Bolivia is rich in minerals, and sales (mainly zinc, tin, silver and gold) generate half of the export income. Natural gas and timber as well as small quantities of coffee are also exported. Subsistence farming predominates, though sugar, soya beans and unofficially, coca are exported.

Concrete statistics are hard to come by in view of the contraband trade. Bordering five countries, it is virtually impossible to police Bolivia's porous borders, and coffee easily slips into southern Peru and northern Argentina.

Domestic consumption based on sales from the registered roasters is around 60,000 bags, but with another 40 unofficial roasters, ANDEC estimates this to be closer to 75,000 bags. Bolivians prefer "cafe torrado", coffee roasted with 20-60% sugar. The roast is so dark that it leaves a stain in the cup. Soluble coffee accounts for 15% of the local market.

Only Arabica

In an effort to control the coca production and the manufacturing of its illicit derivatives, coffee was introduced as an alternative development program. Initially, the first coffee trees were used as property markers or to line roads but by the 1950s coffee had become sufficiently lucrative so as to, not only, supply local demand but to export as well. 

Since then the coffee production has gone up and down based on the price movements on the international market. The last rush in production came after the '94 frost in Brasil. 

95% of the production comes from smallholders who use little or no fertilizers and pesticides. Those small producer families own an average 10 ha of land of which 10 to 20% is dedicated to coffee.
It is all Arabica, mostly Typica and Criolla variety. 

More than 90% of Bolivian coffee is produced in the Yungas area, a tropical zone in the department of La Paz, situated in the west of the country, which has a favourable climate and altitudes ranging from 500 to 1.600 meters. Other coffee growing areas are the departments of Cochabamba, Santa Cruz and Tarija which, combined, account for approximately 6% of total production.

Approximately 35% of this area is also dedicated to the growing of coca, and it is here that the UNDCP (United Nations Drug Control Program) coordinates international diversification programs. Together with private industry, they have succeeded in making coffee the most important alternative cash crop in this region.

Bags of 69 kg

Crop Period

Flowering Period

Main : From August until September



Harvesting Period

Main : From April until June


Shipping Period

Main : From July until December

Transit days

Port of Shipment




Arica 80% 30 20

Bolivia is landlocked but has free port privileges with neighbouring countries.
Such is the case with Arica and Antofagasta in Chile which are connected by rail with Juliaca in Peru. Shipments to Argentina and Chile are done by rail. 

Destination countries

1. Germany
2  The Netherlands
3. Spain, Chile

The main market for Bolivian coffee is Europe. Germany is the biggest buyer, followed by the Netherlands and Spain. Another important market is the United States of America. Other exports have been made to Chile, Israel, Japan and Saudi Arabia.

Nice to know

Coffee cultivation has strongly been encouraged by the Bolivian and foreign authorities to compete with coca leaf cultivation.
Most of the coffee produced is organic (certified or not).

ICO Figures

Typical description

Bolivia Primera Arabica


By defects

Bolivia have adopted a defect count based on the Colombian Model.
There are two classifications: Bolivia Primera Arabica and Bolivia Extra Arabica.

In practise, they are often sold as Excelso and Supremo, like in Colombia.

Nice to know

85% of production comes from small farms who process their coffee in their own wet-mills (beneficios). Lack of expertise causes these coffees to be sometimes overfermented.





80% washed




In the Sun or dryers


Machine-cleaning, electronic-sorting, hand-picking

85% of production comes from small farms who process their coffee in their own wet-mills (beneficios). Lack of expertise causes these coffees to be sometimes overfermented.

Farmers depulp coffee on their premises, then deliver it to centralised cooperatives or intermediaries who deal with the exporters. The topography and climate make transport over hair-raising mountainous roads to La Paz, 120 km away, difficult and costly. Two of the UNDCP (United Nations Drug Control Program) projects have focused on the construction of roads connecting coffee producing plants with the main road, to guarantee the continued transport and market access. Further improvements are under way.

ANDEC, The National association of coffee exporters, was created to jointly promote Bolivian coffee in foreign countries. Its main goal being to maintain a steady line of production, while guaranteeing the physical characteristics and overall quality of their coffee. It has also been involved in creating standards of certification to help create homogeneous coffee and a standard for exportation which exporters must comply with. ANDEC comprises 40 registered Bolivian exporters, of which an estimated 12 are active. ANDEC has also been active in some research and development. Since 1990, a laboratory for expert quality control has been in operation. Specialised agronomists are employed, who travel widely throughout the coffee growing areas, advising and encouraging farmers. 

Unscrupulous business dealings by some exporters in the 1970s led to Bolivian coffee being regarded as high risk and was penalized on the international market. Reputation, however, has improved over the years.

The fair trade and certified coffees have gained a lot of importance in Bolivia. Without these new ways of producing, the local coffee chain would be facing a serious crisis.

ICO Member, Unwashed Arabica Group.
ANDEC: Bolivia Exporters association

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