New K500 million plan to boost Papua New Guinea’s coffee industry

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Papua New Guinea’s coffee industry has failed to reach its full potential, but a new K500 million plan aims to fix that. Coffee Industry Corporation CEO Charles Dambui tells Business Advantage PNG how the new 2020 Coffee Roadmap will pave the way for a better future.

Coffee farmers in Eastern Highlands. Credit: Joeri Kalwij/Instagram

Twelve months ago, at the annual National Coffee Industry Symposium, the PNG industry was battling low prices, lagging production and poor organisation.

But the Coffee Industry Corporation (CIC) has spent the past year producing the National Coffee Development Roadmap 2020-2030 (the NCDR) with the bold aim to lift annual production to 3 million bags by 2030 (from under 1 million) and arrest the sector’s slow decline.

Coffee is the second most important agriculture cash crop after palm oil to PNG and it is cultivated by over half a million households around the country. Almost three million Papua New Guineans rely on coffee for their livelihoods.

‘The NCDR has forecast a budget of K513,974,670 over the next 10 years to revitalise the coffee industry.’

‘We would like to increase production as much as possible and that is our goal for the ten-year plan,’ CIC CEO Charles Dambui tells Business Advantage PNG. ‘How do we get there? We have identified six key areas that need to improve before we can get the required outcomes.’

These are:

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  • Strengthening regulatory functions in the industry for licensed operators;
  • Realigning functional areas in the CIC to cater to emerging needs, resources, human talents and 
organisational capacity development;
  • Fostering and actively promoting partnerships and marketing;
  • Revising and developing a standardised approach to extension inputs to improve market access, National Coffee Development production and productivity;
  • Adopting an approach of intervention through organised farmer groups or at aggregate level;
  • Developing technology-driven systems and processes for market information collection, analysis
 and dissemination.

Changing how things are done

Dambui says that the second point, a significant overhaul of the CIC itself, is a big move and ‘one of the things not done in the past’.

The new look CIC will be more closely aligned with the roadmap itself, removing a lot of red tape.

‘We realised the structure that we have right now does not actually have any relevance to the plan that we designed,’ Dambui says. ‘Now we are looking at how we can restructure the organisation so that it talks to all the key objectives that we have identified in our plan and that is where we will redirect all our resources.

‘The main problem is that, if a road washes out or a bridge collapses there is an entire community that no longer has access to a market.’

‘The aim is to have six team leaders aligned with six key objectives and they will report directly the CEO. We are cutting down some of the administrative process so we can give more leverage to our team leaders to do the implementation on the ground to make decisions and account for resources that are expedited.’

The NCDR has forecast a budget of K513,974,670 over the next 10 years to revitalise the coffee industry. In the medium term, K256,987,335 is needed for the CIC for 2020–2024 to help realise the objectives. Dambui says that the money will be available to each coffee-growing region to used as they see fit, in line with the roadmap aims.

A bump in the road

There is an unfortunate irony in having a ten-year ‘roadmap’, given that Joeri Kalwi of coffee exporter New Guinea Highlands Coffee Exports Ltd says that one of the biggest problems is one of roads.

‘There is a very healthy appetite for PNG coffees,’ Kalwij tells Business Advantage PNG. ‘There always will be, it’s just a matter of the constant decline in infrastructure that is holding us back.

‘The only way for us to grow SMEs in coffee is mobilising all our farmers together and registering them as a cooperative or a business group’

‘It is less a matter of throwing money at rehabilitation or training farmers – these are nice buzz words and it all helps – but the main problem is that, if a road washes out or a bridge collapses there is an entire community that no longer has access to a market and these are problems that exporters or the coffee industry simply can’t fix.’

Kalwij, who has extensive experience in PNG and was previously with Monpi Coffee Exports, says that the industry needs to work hard on promoting its profile overseas, where it is just one per cent of the global market. He also notes that there is a big problem with rogue operators, so the CIC’s objective to strengthen regulations is a welcome one.

He adds that the negative aspects of the current pandemic has seen demand taper off.

‘If you look around, you will find major roasters and boutique roasters being more hesitant to committing to purchases,’ he says. ‘Everyone wants to see how this thing is going to pan out.’

From little things big things grow

CIC’s Charles Dambui. Credit: PNG Loop

Charles Dambui acknowledges that infrastructure is the industry’s ‘biggest challenge’ but is focusing on what his corporation can control – and that is increasing the role of SMEs in the coffee industry.

‘For coffee, we know that many of our smallholder farmers are not really small but micro,’ he says. ‘The only way for us to grow SMEs in coffee is mobilising all our farmers together and registering them as a cooperative or a business group then they can access funding – that’s the way forward.’

Kalwij is also positive about the future of PNG coffee, despite the issues it faces.

‘I think PNG coffee is, on a baseline level, excellent in quality with a nice flavour profile. We are blessed with the opportunities we have,’ he says. ‘We just have to tap into it, and work for it.’

Comments

  1. Joanne Kila says

    How do I apply for an Export License?

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