Small wonders: smallholders behind Kongo Coffee success


Smallholder farms are the key to success for Papua New Guinea coffee producer, Kongo Coffee. Paul Chai reports.

Kongo Coffee’s Jerry Kapka

Focusing on small, premium-quality coffee producers may come with some challenges, but it is also the secret to the success of Kongo Coffee.

Kongo Coffee sources its beans from over 100 smallhold farmers, some of whom produce beans at the highest altitudes in Papua New Guinea.

“Coffee produced in the higher altitudes takes longer to develop and it concentrates the quality and the flavours,” says Jerry Kapka, Managing Director of Kongo Coffee. “The higher the altitude, the better the coffee.”

But Kapka readily admits that with such a geographically diverse collection of coffee farms comes some challenges.

“The main problem we have is transport, the quality of the roads is an issue, and we have issues with people trying to move their coffee to market,” Kapka says. “The international demand is there, the market is there but sometimes we have supply problems.”

Freshly harvested coffee beans. Credit: Kongo Coffee

Based in Simbu Province, PNG’s third-largest coffee-producing region, Kongo has an annual coffee production of around 120,000 bags or 7200 tonnes.

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Kongo is constantly looking to stay ahead of not only the inherent challenges but also the competition, so it has been making constant improvements to the coffee production process.

The focus for improvement has been to lift the quality of the green beans, which are the backbone of Kongo’s export business, by upgrading factory equipment.

Kongo Coffee is also a champion of the local community, working to continuously train farmers but also address social and economic issues in the villages in which it does business.

This article was first published in the January–March 2024 edition of Paradise, the in-flight magazine of Air Niugini.

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