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Wake Up and Smell the Indian Coffee: Overseas Lessons for Coffee Board coof India

May 29, 2018 8:18 AM 5 min read

In February 2018, I went on a coffee expedition organized by Lavazza (in partnership with Oxfam and SDSN Youth) to cognize the narrative of coffee, discover the innovative aesthetics of coffee types, read the delicate livelihoods behind the production chain and understand perceptions associated with coffee culture. As part of the two-week program, I travelled to Turin and Dominican Republic to assess cultivation practices, understand production methodologies across geographies, meet stakeholders in the coffee value chain, and realise coffee's current relevance in the economy by decoding its socio-environmental impact.


Demand for Coffee is Increasing Globally


Coffee is worth $24 billion in exports as at 2018, as per the Observatory of Economic Complexity, MIT. It is globally the 117th most traded product and stands at 948th position by complexity, according to the Product Complexity Index. Demand for coffee and its consumption are globally on a rise even as the beverage is not a staple like wheat and rice or a necessity such as oil and steel. Furthermore, this little fruit, being a cash crop makes it to the New York Stock Exchange, demonstrating its immense worldwide demand.


Dominican Republic’s Policy Support to Coffee Farmers

Wake Up and Smell the Indian Coffee: Overseas Lessons for Coffee Board of India 

In spite of coffee’s tremendous popularity as a beverage, little is known about its farm to table value chain and the lives of coffee farmers. My recent visit to the coffee farms in Dominican Republic, a country known for its pristine beaches, rich history, merengue rhythms and quality coffee, shines a spotlight on the interesting policies and collaborative approaches adopted by the island nation to promote production.


The Ministry of Agriculture in the Dominican Republic supports an efficient, competitive, innovative and enterprising agricultural sector that serves as a base for the Dominican economy, providing the population with food, job opportunities and social benefits.


So, What is So Unique About Dominican's Coffee?


The Dominican Coffee Council (CODOCAFE), a government body overseeing this commodity, runs The Coffee National Strategy, its flagship policy which seeks to increase yield by training technicians and coffee producers in the management of coffee plantations.


The Strategy aims to improve production, productivity, quality and marketing of coffee by funding the rehabilitation of local roads, restoring land, providing a compensation fund for diseased yield and most importantly promoting equal gender labour participation. The Coffee National Strategy also promotes the development of 'organic' coffee production via state-of-the-art technology to push an environment first agenda.


According to José Fermín Núñez, Executive Director of CODOCAFE, “In my country, the potential of coffee is recognized by the government which funds The Coffee National Strategy. CODOCAFE was created in September 2000, to design, plan and implement coffee policies of the country and work in coordination with the Secretary of State for Agriculture along with other Institutions of the Agricultural Sector. It is unique – as our purpose is to promote sustainable development of the Dominican coffee industry, in the aspects of production, productivity, quality, promotion, international marketing, technological innovation and most importantly, the well-being of coffee growers.”

Wake Up and Smell the Indian Coffee: Overseas Lessons for Coffee Board of India 

After meeting the government stakeholder in the Capital, Santo Domingo, I visited the Neyba region (one of the seven coffee growing regions in Dominican) to interview some coffee farmers. Ambrosia Morillo, farmer and chairwoman of COOPROCASINE, a coffee processing cooperative in the region believes, “to improve the lives of small producers, we need to improve not only the cultivation practices or the agricultural technology, but also respond to the gender and age inequalities with an inclusion process that allows women and young people to work and grow in a sustainable way.”


Partnerships are at the core of activities of the Lavazza/Oxfam/CODOCAFE project that I visited in Neyba Village, with CODOCAFE being the government partner, COOPROCASINE being the local cooperative, Oxfam being the implementation partner and Lavazza the CSR partner, all working to improve the livelihoods of the coffee farmers.


How Does the Project Partnership Help the Farmers?


A young farmer explains, “The project has invested in coffee manufacturing equipment in the village which has helped us shape our identity as producers, and not merely harvesters. The project has trained us on good agricultural practices that can ensure a guaranteed regular income which has improved living standards of several fellow coffee producers.”


High Potential for Indian Coffee Market

Wake Up and Smell the Indian Coffee: Overseas Lessons for Coffee Board of India

India is the 6th largest coffee producer in the world with the ideal landscape, weather and processing conditions which give its coffee a less acidic and unique flavour. India produces about 2.5% of world’s coffee on almost the same percentage of coffee plantations. The traditional coffee growing areas of India comprise of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. From 1950 to 2014, the total area under coffee cultivation in India has increased from 92,523 hectares to over 409,690 hectares, with Karnataka accounting for around 229,658 hectares (56.1%) of the total area and 226,335 million tons (70.7%) of total national production, as per data from the Coffee Board of India.


Apart from the standard support to coffee farmers in terms of good practices and entrepreneurship, the Coffee Board of India should also add indirect amplifiers focussing on gender equality, youth empowerment and food security. Coffee production should be seen as a local retail activity. “While India is primarily a tea drinking country, coffee is now becoming a fashion statement for the young and upwardly mobile”, said Bidisha Nagaraj, Group President (Marketing), Café Coffee Day in a recent article.


With the increasing demand for coffee, it may be interesting to draw inspiration from what I saw in Neyba region and initiate collaborative efforts between farmer cooperatives, private institutions and government bodies to bring about an effective change.


It wouldn’t be wrong to say that coffee production in India has not reached its maximum potential, yet. Collaborative effects with focus on gender/age equality can help us realise our full potential in the coming years.


For more information on Coffee Study Program organized by Lavazza in partnership with Oxfam and SDSN Youth, refer to this link


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