PNG coffee “holds great promise”
In the build-up to the inaugural National Coffee Symposium 2019, international coffee specialists have been invited to participate at the symposium. They bring with them a wealth of knowledge in coffee and will team up with leading coffee specialists in the country to chart a way forward for the industry.
NICOLE MOTTEUX is a sustainable coffee advocate based in Adelaide, South Australia. She is passionate about the people behind the bean, their stories, livelihoods and futures. Her goal is to promote the values of responsibly produced and environment-friendly quality coffee. Nicole talks about her history with PNG coffee and her expectations of the symposium.
Q: Please share a brief background about yourself and your experience with PNG coffee.
NM: My link with Papua New Guinea coffee started in the mid-1980s. My father was a coffee farmer in Zimbabwe. At the time, Zimbabwe had a well-earned reputation for agricultural science and research. My father was approached to advise PNG coffee producers on ways to improve coffee growing practices and processing techniques. In particular, he was known for technical advances in coffee processing to increase efficiency, conversion yields, and profitability. Through this early connection I have always been interested in PNG highland coffee ~ especially as we were also highland coffee growers.
My interest in PNG has continued since coffee is important for many Papua New Guinean livelihoods. It provides an income to around 400,000 rural households across 16 producing provinces across PNG. Improved coffee quality and yield improves the lives of those living in poverty, supports good resource management and economic development (coffee is PNG’s second largest agricultural export after palm oil and an important foreign exchange earner for PNG).
Q: As a seasoned coffee expert, what sets PNG coffee apart from other world-renowned coffees?
NM: PNG’s coffee holds great promise. Customers are intrigued by stories, and the story of PNG coffee is unique. Not only does PNG coffee have a great pedigree, with production dating back to 1926, it is predominantly grown in isolated places by growers with hundreds of different language groups.
There is a real opportunity to drive economic growth and reduce poverty through coffee production in a country of remarkable agricultural potential, where fertile soils and high altitude produces quality coffee and employs thousands of people.
Q: What are you expecting out of this symposium?
NM: High quality, speciality coffee attracts higher prices. In short, “specialty” ultimately means a better life with more security for producers. Importantly, more security in coffee-growing communities leads to better livelihoods for all involved. In particular, the women and youth who plant the coffee, process and trade the beans, and brew and serve this fabulous drink.
The coffee symposium provides a valuable opportunity for the coffee industry to commit to:
- Improving productivity and quality through partnerships, best practice and women/youth empowerment.
- Improving the export environment, including selected aspects of coffee market regulations
- Facilitating private sector business partners and intermediary service providers (input suppliers and financial investors) to support coffee producers’ adoption of innovation
- Facilitating trader/importer engagement for PNG origin specialty coffee in new and alternative markets
- Achieving better life outcomes with greater opportunities for women and youth – in this generation and the next – ultimately leading to poverty reduction
- Closing the gender and youth gap to increase quality and yields through i) improved access to assets (land, livestock, human capital), inputs (seeds, fertilizer, labour, finance) and services (training, insurance); ii) Linking women/youth to coffee agricultural value chains from production all the way to processing and marketing to ensure greater productivity and commercial viability; iii) Improving women/youth’s knowledge of farming techniques (agricultural extension and training services) and access to technologies.
Q: Based on your knowledge of PNG’s coffee sector, what are some immediate changes that need to take place for a transformation of the sector? What is the best approach towards this?
NM: Support improvement to coffee quality at every stage in the supply chain – doing so benefits everyone along the supply chain and especially small-scale coffee growers. Support conscious coffee choices that contribute to the economic empowerment of women and youth, sustainability, transparency, good agricultural practices and improved livelihoods. This requires: adequate institutional support, improved business environment, research and development, good agricultural practices, access to market information, value added agriculture and diversification.
Facilitation of knowledge-sharing and evidence-based dialogue. Considerable efficiency gains can be achieved by ensuring coordinated and consistent approaches and using existing planning and investment instruments rather than preparing new or parallel plans. Sharing research, development and lessons learned to grow the coffee industry as a whole. Allocate more attention and resources to strengthen the voice and agency of coffee growers and the supply chain that empowers women and youth and links them to the markets. Continuous innovation to benefit coffee supply actors.
Q: Further comments?
NM: Of equal importance to market access are market dynamics and trends. Traceability, sustainability, quality of green, and flavour profiles all define specialty coffee and support market access. The traders (importers, consolidators and direct traders) need to be able to provide information to the consumer. It is therefore vital to have systems in place which allows them to have a close business relationship to the farmer, and with vertical integration of the entire supply chain, ensuring all players adhere to the required standards.
In particular, it is important for supply chain actors to listen to customers. Responding to customer feedback is a critical element of a successful product. It generates opportunities and ideas. This will require engaging the next generation of coffee farmers in an analytical, market systems approach to maintaining profitable farm operations, with a focus on quality and sustainability.