Pandemic cooling off world coffee market

Pandemic cooling off world coffee market

COVID-19 is taking its toll on the international coffee market. With cafes and restaurants closing or not operating at full capacity, less coffee is being sold. The trickle down effect means growers are struggling even more.

This is particularly bad for farmers in Mexico. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “Eighty-five percent of coffee producers in Mexico are from indigenous populations, with 95 percent of them considered small producers, with less than 3 hectares.”

Coffee markets across the world are being hit by the pandemic becasue people are not dining out as often. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Mexico is the 10th largest coffee producer in the world, with 3.7 million 60-kilogram bags a year. While coffee is grown in 15 states in Mexico, most of the production comes from Chiapas (41 percent), Veracruz (24 percent) and Puebla (15 percent). Predominately its shade-grown Arabica coffee that is in the ground, with Robusta accounting for about 15 percent of the crop, according to the USDA.

In 2018, the value of exported roasted coffee from Mexico was valued $31.1 million (U.S.). The country is one of the largest exporters of organic-certified coffee in the world. Coffee is one of Mexico’s most valuable exported crops, with most of it going north to the United States.

However, the International Coffee Organization (ICO) said shipments from Central America and Mexico declined by 4.9 percent to 8.77 million bags from October 2019 to April 2020. For the most part, this was prepandemic, so numbers are likely to only get worse.

“World coffee consumption is expected to decrease by 0.5 percent to 167.81 million bags as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to put pressure on the global economy and greatly limits out-of-home coffee consumption. As a result, coffee year 2019-20 is seen ending in a surplus of 1.54 million bags,” according to the ICO.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture also has a dim forecast for coffee producing nations because of the current health crisis.

“COVID-19 effects are expected to stunt consumption growth, as restaurants and cafes around the country are closed, stymying government and specialty producer efforts to increase consumption of high-value Mexican coffee that has been gaining increasing popularity in urban cafes,” the USDA said.

Coffee has been a part of Mexican culture since it was first brought to the country in the 1700s by Europeans.

Even in Mexico, Starbucks is the king of the coffee shop market. There are 10 locations in Baja California Sur. In 2019, Starbucks had 50 percent of the market, followed by Café Punta de Cielo (11.6 percent) and Italian Coffee (10.6 percent).

Tahoe area ski resorts change policies to combat deadly virus

Tahoe area ski resorts change policies to combat deadly virus

Ski resorts are hoping riders will come out this season despite the pandemic rules. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Most every ski resort in the greater Lake Tahoe region has made changes to accommodate safety measures related to COVID-19.

According to Visit California, snow sports are among the top five safest activities in California. This has to do with social distancing and being outdoors.

Ski California, aka California Ski Industry Associations, is stressing that riders need to know before they go this season because the rules have changed. Some resorts are mandating reservations, others say day passes must be purchased before arriving at the ski area, while some won’t offer food. It’s best to check online with the resort you are interested in before heading out to know if tickets will be available that day and how to purchase them. Lessons are also changing, so be sure to find out the specifics before expecting to drop junior off in ski school all day.

For those with a season pass, the rules are different, too. Each resort has implemented different regulations. Plan to wear a mask, even in lift lines. Expect to ride only with the people you want to be on a chairlift.

A sample of passenger counts at the Reno airport. (Graphic:  Reno Tahoe International Airport)

Those cold, blustery days when the lodge is wall-to-wall people—not going to happen this season. That means your vehicle may become a warming hut of sorts.

Ski resort officials speculate some protocols could be fluid, as state regulations impact their business. Still, they are excited about the upcoming season, with some resorts having opening dates on the calendar for November even though that white stuff coming down from the sky has been non-existent this fall.

California and Nevada tourism officials are taking a cautious approach when it comes to luring people from beyond their borders to their respective states.

“We are looking at the consumer mindset. What do they think? When do they think it will be safe to travel and how will they travel?” said Lynn Carpenter, vice president of global marketing for Visit California, the state’s tourism agency. She along with her counterpart from Travel Nevada and ski resort reps were part of webinar about the 2020-21 ski season hosted last month by the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association.

One of two major programs the Silver State is promoting this winter is in-state travel. Discover Nevada was launched in September.

The North Shore tourism agency is pushing safety, education and responsible travel.

“We are encouraging midweek travel, and encouraging working and going to school from the mountains,” Amber Burke, NLTRA marketing director, said. While NLTRA has been marketing to the Southern California area for years, there will be a more concerted effort this winter season. While it’s farther to drive from compared to the San Francisco Bay Area, these people tend to stay longer.

According to a Reno-Tahoe International Airport official, leisure travel started to return in June. This is because the destination has what the leisure traveler wants—wide-open spaces. It was so bad when the pandemic first hit that one day in April only 200 passengers passed through the airport. Normally thousands of people fly each day.

“If we don’t see the demand, (airlines) will leave,” Trish Tucker with the airport said. This November marks 30 years that Southwest Airlines has been flying into Reno. Until the pandemic hit, the least number of daily flights the airline had was 12. In early September that number was nine. Southwest is expected to have daily service to Dallas Love Field from February to April.

Delta is adding an Atlanta route starting in mid-December, lasting through March. The airline will be flying twice daily to Los Angeles International Airport. The last time this occurred was in 2008. JSX, a 30-seat jet service, started servicing Reno in late September. A one-way trip to Burbank costs $89.

Book Review: Brockovich delves into national water crisis

Book Review: Brockovich delves into national water crisis

Life on planet Earth is not sustainable without uncontaminated drinking water. While this is not a new revelation, what some people might not realize is that the world’s fresh water supply is facing threats on multiple levels.

In her latest book “Superman’s Not Coming: Our National Water Crisis and What We the People Can Do About It” (Pantheon Books, 2020) Erin Brockovich takes the reader on a journey to various parts of the world, mostly in the United States, that are having or have had issues with potable drinking water.

It was alarming to learn how much contamination exists at U.S. military bases, and that the Department of Defense is not doing all it can to help the men and women who still work there or providing the help to military personnel who have moved on, but still suffered consequences because of contaminants in the water.

One of the most egregious things going on is that water systems only test for known chemicals. The polluters of our waterways and aquifers—the source for drinking water—don’t tell the water providers what they are doing. It’s not until what comes out of the tap is discolored or smells funny, or people start dying or coming down with unexplained diseases, or animals are deformed or sick that the truth starts to come to light.

Even then so often government and industry get in the way of fixing the problem or even taking responsibility. Much of the book is about how grassroots efforts are needed to right the wrongs of the world. At the end of most chapters Brockovich gives tips on how people can get involved. Plus, she gives multiple examples about how so many “average” people were able to make a difference in their communities when it came to drinking water.

Brockovich more than once expressed how clean drinking water is not a partisan issue, pointing out how the Clean Water Act was signed by a Republican president and the Environmental Protection Agency was created by a different Republican president. But she has harsh words for the Trump administration with its stance toward coal as she explains how that industry is bad for the environment, and how this administration has decimated the EPA.

“We need more information about all the chemicals found in the marketplace today, and we need more scientists and experts to take a bolder stand,” Brockovich wrote. “Many contaminants found in our drinking water, including pharmaceutical and industrial chemicals, are not regulated.”

While the subject matter is incredibly serious, the book is not overly technical. Brockovich conveys her message in an easy to read manner. With plenty of real life examples, the book exposes how clean drinking water is something we all need to be paying attention to. She has solutions; it’s not just about pointing fingers and placing blame. However, Brockovich underlines that without our involvement, the government and industry won’t solve this problem. They need our prodding.

Mexico helping with ongoing toilet paper shortage in U.S.

Mexico helping with ongoing toilet paper shortage in U.S.

Don’t squeeze the Regio! The what? Regio. It’s one of several brands of Mexican toilet paper that have been showing up on shelves at U.S. retailers.

Mexican brands of toilet paper are on some stores shelves in the U.S. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

When the pandemic first hit in the spring stores in the U.S. could not keep toilet paper in stock. Sales were up more than 100 percent in March compared to 2019. While the supply has improved, manufacturers in the United States are still struggling to keep up with demand. This left retailers scrambling to satisfy customers’ basic needs—something to wipe with.

Mexico toilet paper companies have come to the rescue. Regio, Hoteles Elite, Daisy Soft, Petalo, and Vogue have been seen at stores throughout the U.S. It’s not just Mexico helping out. TP companies in Canada and Trinidad and Tobago have also sent product to the States.

According to Statista, people in the United States use the most toilet compared to other countries. “On average, an American can be expected to get through 141 rolls of the stuff per year, equating to roughly 12.7 kilograms.”

Once U.S. brands can catch up, expect the international products to disappear.

Castle Peak delivers with 360-Degree majestic views

Castle Peak delivers with 360-Degree majestic views

Castle Peak is a popular hike near Truckee. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Looking up I tried to find the castle. Someone with a better imagination must have named this rock outcropping. While others saw turrets, I saw volcanic rock.

Castle Peak is something I have driven by countless times while zooming along Interstate 80, but it wasn’t until the last Saturday in September that I climbed to the top. It was magical even with the smoke. While the air quality hindered our ability to see Mount Diablo, the mountain I grew up by in the San Francisco Bay Area, or Mount Lassen, the southern-most peak in the Cascade Range, the views are why you want to climb this mountain.

Sue Wood takes her time on the loose rock on top of the hardpack trail. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

While the tippy-top is actually 9,103 feet, we made it to 8,998 feet. A fear of heights kept me away from the “turrets”. Plus, there was no advantage to going higher in terms of being able to get a better view.

Looking north was the distinctive Sierra Buttes. Turning to the east was Stampede Reservoir. The nearest iconic fixture were the slopes of Boreal ski resort. It was 360 degrees of beauty—with rugged mountains, a beautiful meadow, peaks whose names I had not heard of nor could I find them all on a map. While plenty of other people were enjoying the scenery and having a bite to eat before heading back, it was a respectful group. No loud chatter, no obnoxious cell phone calling as has been my experience at other times in the Sierra.

While some see turrets on a castle, others only see rock formations. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

We started our adventure at the gate just off the interstate, though it would be possible to drive the better part of the way to the top. The reason to drive would be to access other trails without having to hike as far. We ended up doing a loop instead of an out and back. The loop was a bit shorter because the route we took back was more direct. We clocked 6.43 miles total.

Part of the trail includes a dense forest. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

From the gate where you park there is a choice to go left or right. Go right. This would also be the dirt road (Castle Valley Road) you could drive on; four-wheel drive vehicle recommended. Not too far up there will be a fork in the road, with a sign signaling right for Donner Lake Rim Trail. Follow this for the more scenic route. Going straight is the route we came down and the one you would want to drive in order to park as close as possible. You will hit another juncture, Castle Pass, where you will go right.

Be watchful of the wildlife who want to share or perhaps steal your lunch. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Once on the single track part of the trail and off the dirt road the terrain changes dramatically. Trees are closer together, with patches of dried mule’s ear clapping in the gentle breeze. At certain points the view to the west opened up.

Part of the route is along the Pacific Crest Trail, but those hikers are long gone in the fall.

All but about the last mile is relatively easy or moderate as far as Tahoe area hikes go. It’s the steepness at the end that will have you slow your pace. Coming down it was the scree on the path that made me so thankful to have poles.

Views in every direction are the reasons to climb Castle Peak. (Image: Kathryn Reed)



Ballot in the mail; vote for Ballard, Creegan and no on Measure S

Ballot in the mail; vote for Ballard, Creegan and no on Measure S

Voting by mail is safe and easy. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It’s done. I’ve voted. Now the waiting game begins.

I doubt the outcome of the presidential election will be known Nov. 3 after the polls close. All the mail in ballots will delay that process.

I would guess most local elections will be known that night. In South Lake Tahoe two City Council seats are up, along with two for the water-sewer district, and a measure that would increase the local sales tax to be the highest in the region.

I voted no on Measure S. It would increase the sales tax from 7.75 percent to 8.75 percent. The city is being so disingenuous with voters in saying the money will go to fire protection. The truth is the money can go wherever the city wants it to go. With two new councilmembers coming on board after the election because the incumbents are not running, there is no guarantee the newbies will choose to allocate the new revenue (estimated by the city to be $5.4 million annually) toward public safety. The city manager has been on board since May, so he has no track record with constituents. There would be no sunset on this additional 1 cent tax. The city would have to put a measure on a future ballot asking voters to rescind the tax hike for it to go away.

The city has been crying poor for years. What has it been doing to prepare for the reduction in transient occupancy tax because of the voter initiated changes in vacation home rentals? Why weren’t there furloughs during the onslaught of COVID-19 when recreation facilities, the campground and other services were not offered, or when the snow stopped flying and there was nothing to remove from the streets? Where is the accountability of the spending of the excess reserves?

Don’t ask me or anyone else to pay more when you haven’t done your job or sacrificed.

As for the council candidates, I voted for Stacey Ballard and Cristi Creegan. While I don’t know either of them well, I know enough that the reasons they are running are honest, with no hidden agendas. I doubt I could ever find a candidate I agree with 100 percent. For instance, Creegan is for Measure S. Still, both women are honest, hardworking people who will have the best interest of the city at heart when they make a decision. I also believe both will be able to work well with the three remaining council members in order to have a cohesive government body.

As for the South Tahoe Public Utility District board, I voted for David Peterson for the full term and wrote in a friend who once wanted to be on this board. For the unexpired term, Shane Romsos got my vote.

It’s time for Brynne Kennedy to be our voice in the House of Representatives.

When it came to the state initiatives I looked at the endorsements of publications I respect. I added those thoughts to my research to come up with my own selections.

For those wondering if their ballot made it to the appropriate elections department in California, go here to register for updates. Nevada voters may do the same by registering online here. Remember, voting by mail is not dangerous or full of perils like fraud. I’ve been doing this so long I can’t remember when I last voted in person.

U.S.-Mexico border issues rooted in corruption

U.S.-Mexico border issues rooted in corruption

The wall between the United States and Mexico is not keeping everyone out. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

While migrant caravans have slowed during the pandemic, the pilgrimages have not ended. People still want to flee their countries for the United States, with traversing through Mexico being a large part of their journey.

On Sept. 30, the documentary “Blood on the Wall” was released on the National Geographic Channel. Five days before its debut, award-winning directors Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested spoke with Ishaan Tharoor of the Washington Post live online. The filmmakers’ goals were to explore how corruption, the drug trade, and misguided policies have contributed to the current migration crisis in Mexico.

“If you can’t deal with corruption and the rule of law, you won’t make any sizable or meaningful changes,” Quested said. The corruption is on both sides of the border.

Junger called Mexico one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Soldiers are working for the drug cartels. The drug cartels are also in the business of human trafficking. Migrants sometimes have no choice but to be mules for the cartels in order to secure a guided trip through the desert into the United States.

Guns are coming to Mexico via the United States; then used by the cartels. Gun laws are not being enforced on either side of the border.

The directors employed mostly Mexicans for the film crew, with the theory they would be better at telling their story. The shoot was broken into three sections—the caravan, Acapulco, and the cartels.

Junger and Quested gave some of the migrants cell phones to use as cameras. This, they believed, would be less intrusive than a big camera, and would get people to act more natural. One woman shot footage of herself as she did drugs, and begged for food and money.

“In showing the reality of migrants and narcos we wanted to show they are people like you and me,” Junger said.

He said it’s impossible to separate narcotics, migration and politics, while also pointing out it is necessary to understand how the United States has supported various Central American regimes.

“That legacy of the last 40 years of interference has led to the issue of mass migration today,” Junger said.

In the film a person says, “Just because we are migrants doesn’t mean we are bad people.” This is a statement so many in the United States can’t come to grips with. It takes a willingness to be educated about the issue, to want to understand why people are leaving their homes in search of a better way of life. It’s not about wanting to freeload in the United States. After all, many immigrants end up paying more than $750 a year in income taxes.

Colonoscopy can be a life saving exam

Colonoscopy can be a life saving exam

My stomach was gurgling before I finished the 16 ounces of liquid. Before I could wash it down with the prescribed 32 ounces of water I was in the bathroom. And so began the prep for my colonoscopy.

This was my fourth time to undergo this procedure—all at Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe, all by doctor Dan Norman. Unfortunately, when I return in five years he will be retired. I remember the first time I had this done it was shortly after I had been fired as managing editor at the Tahoe Daily Tribune for refusing to blur the lines between editorial and advertising. I still harbored hostile thoughts about the publisher. It turns out these two men went to college together. To this day I wonder what I said while I was sedated.

The prep for colonoscopy is usually worse than the exam. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

I started having this exam when I was 40 because my dad had colon cancer. He is one of the lucky ones, in that it was caught early and he lived many years after the chemotherapy. Among cancers, colon cancer is second behind lung cancer as the top killer of people in the United States.

“However, more than one‐half of all cases and deaths are attributable to modifiable risk factors, such as smoking, an unhealthy diet, high alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, and excess body weight, and thus potentially preventable,” according to the American Cancer Society.

An alarming statistic is that the number of people younger than 50 who are diagnosed with colon cancer is increasing. Fifty is the usual age men and women should start having routine colonoscopies, though some groups now say to begin at age 45. ACS says symptoms of colon cancer include:

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days.
  • A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that’s not relieved by having one.
  • Rectal bleeding with bright red blood.
  • Blood in the stool, which might make the stool look dark brown or black.
  • Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain.
  • Weakness and fatigue.
  • Unintended weight loss.

Fortunately, all of my colonoscopies have been clean. What made this last one different was that I did it without being sedated. The in-take nurse talked to me about this option, telling me about her experience. Knowing I would have an IV so the drug could be requested on demand helped make me decide to try it. Plus, I’ve had more than one cavity filled without the use of Novocain, so I knew I could handle some degree of pain.

Being a bit squeamish at times when it comes to medical things, I was not about to fixate on the screen showing my innards. When I did glance up it was gross and fascinating at the same time.

I had been warned that when the device went around the corners this would be the most painful. I verbalized my discomfort. A nurse put pressure on my stomach, which helped. At one point someone said my blood pressure had dropped to 43, which is when I was told to take deep breaths. I did so into my mask, trying to stay calm as this device made its way through my intestinal tract. At 80 percent done and my moans getting a little more pronounced I was asked if I wanted the drug. No. I could do this. I knew I needed to keep breathing and try to stay calm because that would make the whole process easier on me and the doc.

I survived—no drugs. This meant I had the rest of the day to do what I wanted. Normally the anesthesia knocks me out for the day and sometimes makes me a bit loopy into the next day. I’m quite the lightweight with drugs and prefer not taking them. I was tired that afternoon, and certainly hungry.

The new prep was better than what I used last time. It was not covered by my insurance, but was worth the $128. Part of the formula was taken the night before, the second dose was ingested early morning the day of the procedure. In the past all of the liquids were consumed the night before. This time I also could not eat anything other than liquids on the day before the exam. I lived on water and vegetable broth that day. It meant having less to clean out and that I would be even hungrier when all was said and done.

The bottom line, pun intended, is that if you haven’t had your colonoscopy, do so. With drugs, it’s completely painless. It could save your life.

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