How Papua New Guinea can boost its coffee production [analysis]

Papua New Guinea has the potential to become one of the top coffee producers in the world. Deputy Director of the National Research Institute, Eugene Ezebilo, explores what other countries have done to boost their coffee production and how these strategies could be implemented in PNG.

PNG coffee beans. Credit: PHAMA PLUS

PNG coffee beans. Credit: PHAMA PLUS

PNG coffee beans. Credit: PHAMA PLUS

Coffee is one of the most tradeable agricultural commodities in the world and it plays an important role in several economies such as PNG. Coffee provides jobs for more than two million people in the country and generates government revenue.

However, providing facilities that promote the production, processing and marketing of high-quality coffee has been a long-standing issue in PNG.

Most of the coffee trees have passed their economic productive age and most smallholder coffee growers do not have access to extension services as well as processing facilities.

There is a need to find potential strategy to make coffee industry more lucrative and contribute more to the government revenue and livelihood of farmers.

Coffee production

PNG ranks 18th position in coffee production in 2020 and contributes 0.5 per cent to the world’s coffee. The country grows mostly Arabica (94 per cent) and Robusta (six per cent).

‘If Robusta coffee is managed properly, it can contribute to the production of high-quality coffee that can compete with Arabica coffee.’

Generally, in the last 11 years, the total quantity of coffee produced in PNG follows a declining trend. PNG had the highest total coffee production in 2011, which corresponds to 1.414 million 60kg bags. The lowest quantity of coffee was produced in 2020 (675,000 60kg bags).

Challenges associated with coffee production in PNG

The key challenges associated with coffee production in PNG include:

  • Inadequate access to basic infrastructure and facilities.
  • Inadequate extension services.
  • Most of the coffee trees in PNG tend to have passed their economic productive age.
  • Some coffee growers convert whole or part of their coffee fields to other more economical crops.
  • Pests and diseases.
  • Unfavourable market prices.
  • Access to finance.
  • Access to land for commercial coffee production.

Lessons that PNG can learn from the top five coffee-producing countries

If the intention of PNG is to become one of the top coffee-producing countries in the world, it should consider drawing the following lessons from the top five coffee-producing countries:

  • Coffee plantations can trigger an increase in coffee production and an increase in profit from coffee production through economies of scale as shown by Brazil.
  • There is a need for the Government of PNG (GoPNG) to encourage modernisation of coffee production systems through promoting effective extension services and training.
  • There is a need to provide more funds for research in areas such as the development of new coffee varieties, high-quality specialty of coffee and farm management practices as revealed by Vietnam, Indonesia and Brazil.
  • GoPNG should consider providing agricultural support to coffee farmers through loans facility at low interest rates.
  • If Robusta coffee is managed properly, it can contribute to the production of high-quality coffee that can compete with Arabica coffee, as shown by Vietnam.
  • Cultivate disease resistant coffee varieties and avoid the abuse of pesticides as shown by Colombia.
  • Coffee grower groups such as PNG Small Coffee Growers Association and coffee farmers’ cooperative societies have an important role to play in coffee production, processing, and marketing, as shown by Colombia and Ethiopia.
  • Replace all coffee trees that have passed their productive age with new coffee trees to increase production and yield per hectare, as shown by Columbia.

Some possible ways to boost coffee production

If the intention is to boost coffee production in PNG, ‘political will’ from GoPNG is needed in the following areas:

  • Investment in areas such as research in high yielding, disease resistant varieties and high valued coffee specialities.
  • Investment in effective extension services and in providing agricultural and infrastructural support for coffee growers.
  • Improvement in coffee productivity in PNG through best management practices of the world’s top coffee-producing countries.
  • Strengthening of group formation by coffee growers, with close partnerships between farmers and coffee chain leaders such as processors, buyers, and exporters.
  • Promoting centralised facility for processing to the smallholder coffee farmers.
  • During long period of decline of coffee prices in the world market, government should consider providing subsidies to smallholders so that they can survive till prices improve.

Conclusion

PNG National Research Institute’s Dr Eugene Ezebilo. Credit: Linkedin

PNG National Research Institute’s Dr Eugene Ezebilo. Credit: Linkedin

The country has suitable environmental and climatic conditions for growing high-quality coffee. However, the challenges that coffee growers, especially smallholders face such as inadequate facilities for processing, inadequate extension services and limited access to finance restrict the country from being one of the top coffee-producing countries.

Coffee grower groups, such as PNG Small Coffee Growers Association and farmers’ cooperative societies should be encouraged, to own coffee processing mills. GoPNG should consider providing loans through the National Development Bank to the coffee groups for the purchase of coffee milling machines.

This is an edited fragment of the National Research Institute (NRI) Spotlight paper ‘Strategic Initiatives to boost the competitiveness of coffee production in Papua New Guinea’ which was written by Dr Eugene Ezebilo, Deputy Director, Research, at the NRI. Access the full version here. Republished with permission.

Source: https://www.businessadvantagepng.com/

Posted in: Papua New Guinea

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