In an interview with Business Advantage PNG, Monpi Coffee Exports Manager, Joeri Kalwij, says the low production is due to a number of factors which are:
Poor training of farmers and the state of the trees; bottlenecks at ports due to lengthy and complex export bureaucracy; substandard mills; and the country’s declining infrastructure.
At the top of the list is road and bridge infrastructure, which Kalwij says is crucial for famers in rural PNG to transport their coffee, but has been affected to natural disasters.
‘It doesn’t get fixed in the same season. That means that a lot of farmers who grow coffee have a harder time bringing their coffee to market,” said Kalwij.
Export bureaucracy is another difficulty with calls for easier and timely attainment of exporting documents which will see more exporters selling more.
“Mistakes are made and it takes a long time, often weeks, to get a set of export documents ready for your clients. That is where the reputation of PNG as an exporting nation is at stake.
He further states, “We simply do not know. Export figures are just that: a mere figure that does not give you the complete story of how the industry is going. It can be a dangerous figure that gives a false sense of security when misinterpreted.”
Coffee quality is also another issue with Kalwij saying they were devaluing their coffee due to coffee beans being under-grade, or from past crops.
This is alluded to the lack of training of local farmers which forces exporters to ensure consistent quality of was maintained.
“A bucket of random cherries at a random wet mill will be any colour, from green to dark red and everything in between. Why don’t mills reject unripe beans? Why don’t we train coffee growers better? It’s a negative vicious circle with regards to quality.”
He is further quoted saying “It’s our job as an industry to make sure the growers appreciate coffee as a cash crop and know how to treat it well and maintain the quality after harvest. Sadly, it’s pretty much left up to exporters to ensure consistent quality.”
Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand CEO, Molly Harriss Olson, however, tells Business Advantage PNG demand for coffee is growing across the globe with projections that 4.5 million Australians will be drinking coffee by 2020.
‘This growth in demand, coupled with PNG’s close proximity to Australia, provides a tremendous opportunity for PNG coffee growers,’ says Olsen.
Demand for PNG coffee will always beat supply, says Kalwij, as the country provides one per cent of the global coffee output
“We will never be a Brazil or a Vietnam. But do we need to be? We can create specialty coffees. We can create quality by being more hands-on with the farmers.
“People will stand in line to buy a cup of PNG coffee–if it’s marketed as PNG coffee. PNG can cater for all ends of the spectrum: high end specialty and a solid quality bulk volume,” said Kalwij
Picture Credit: Business Advantage PNG