By WILLIE BRUL
THE Eastern Highlands provincial government must seriously consider finding a market for coffee growers in order to promote the small to medium enterprises in the province.
This call was made by a coffee farmer from Fayatnina in Henganofi district who, together with his small coffee growers society, produces about 80-90 bags of green bean coffee per year.
Felix Owayasa, 48, who is also the chairman of the Kupena Ensign Coffee Co-Operative, said for many years smallholder coffee farmers who produce thousands of kilograms of green bean and parchment coffee have always strictly complied with the Coffee Industry Corporation (CIC) guidelines and regulations in planting, pruning, harvesting and drying their coffee beans but they receive very little in return for their hard work.
Mr Owayasa said they have met all the guidelines set by CIC and coffee exporting companies to produce high quality green bean coffee but they receive very little income and revenue because they don’t have access to market their produce overseas.
He said because coffee exporters have access to overseas markets, they benefit greatly from buying the green bean coffee of small producers at low prices set by themselves and then exported them for very high prices overseas.
“We have worked very hard to produce high quality green bean coffee where when the beans are roasted and tested it usually reach the coffee grading specialty range of 83 to 83.79 points which is the American standard of coffee cupping testing,” he said.
“If we can export our high quality green bean coffee overseas we can earn huge income where it will be three or four times more than what we earn here.
“Simply because we don’t have a market of our own the middlemen (coffee exporters) take advantage of this by forcing us to comply with their own rules and those set by CIC. The CIC didn’t help us to find a market for small co-operatives like us and therefore we are at the mercy of prices set by coffee exporting companies.”
He said Eastern Highlands only has coffee as its major cash crop and the provincial government and the nine Members of Parliament of the province must invest more in coffee production for local smallholder farmers in order to promote SME activities in the province.
“I believe the young Governor Peter Numu in his campaign rallies spoke more about growing the SME sector in Eastern Highlands and the right place for investing the money is coffee because it’s our only major source of income for the province.”
Mr Owayasa urged the Governor and the nine MPs to find and secure overseas markets for small co-operative societies in the districts so that it will boost the SME sector and the economy of the province.
The current price for a kilo of parchment coffee is K4 while the price of a kilo of green bean is K7.
The CIC is working hard to contain the spread of coffee berry borer (CBB) pest in Asaro from spreading to other districts in the province.
By WILLIE BRUL