By LEO WAFIWA
THE power of togetherness achieves market power.
This has been evidenced by coffee farmers in the beautiful North and South Waghi Valley of Jiwaka who are working together to invite a premium price to their doorsteps. Some 200 plus farmers are combining their efforts to produce quality coffee as a group and exporting directly overseas.
The growers had to wait for close to six months to get their payment but the high price was worth waiting for.
The farmers operate under Kosem Coffee Limited, a lead partner of Coffee Industry Corporation’s Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (CIC-PPAP which is implementing coffee rehabilitation activities from post-harvest to marketing with farmers in cluster groups.
The farmers including a group from Jimi recently exported a container of 320 bags of high quality green bean coffee to a specialty market in New Zealand. The shipment was made six months ago in March 2017.
Only last month (September) the growers happily walked into Kosem office premises in Banz town to collect their dues. Their premium was calculated as per the number of parched coffee bags contributed which was processed to green bean by Kosem Coffee Ltd.
I met up one of these farmers, William Erai, on Friday 22 September, and asked him about his achievements.
Farmer William, aged 40, is of Togba Village, Nondugul LLG and is married with five children. His eldest son is 17-years-old and the last is a six months old baby.
Accompanying William was his 7 year old son to receive their K4,000 hard cash all in 100 kina notes.
“All this time I have been taking my coffee bags down to Goroka and incurring transport cost of K10 per bag only to return with very little money,” he said in Tok Pisin.
William has been selling his parchment coffee to a processing mill just outside of Goroka town. The last sale was 10 bags at K4.80 per kilogram in late 2016.
One parchment bag averages 50kg so William sold a bag at K240 earning a total of K2,400. He paid K400 for transport, labour and other associated costs and returned to Jiwaka with K2,000.
His recent contribution of only eight bags parchment coffee under Kosem Coffee Ltd’s group marketing initiative earned him K4,000 at the rate of K8.33 per kg or K500 per bag.
The difference is K260 extra income for a bag.
“This is plenty of money,” he said calmly while flipping through the 100 kina notes spread across his hands, for a picture with his son.
William and 200-plus other farmers in the fertile Waghi Valley embraced the opportunity provided by CIC-PPAP coffee rehabilitation program three years ago in 2014 under Call 1 and 2.
They attended trainings facilitated by Kosem on selected topics such as business management skills, farm book/record keeping, and HIV/AIDS and gender equality training.
He was one of the farmers who also received some basic tools and materials like bush knives, secateurs, bow saws, spades, herbicides and knapsack sprayers and coffee hand pulpers after paying an equity fee of 10 per cent. A farmer would pay over K1,000 for all these items.
William has two block of gardens with close to 1800 coffee trees.
Before PPAP coffee intervention in 2014, William produced on average 10 bags of parchment coffee per year. The subsidised tools and materials with trainings in coffee quality, harvesting and processing encouraged him to appreciate his role as a coffee farmer.
“The tools and trainings really motivate me to realise how important the family is to my life.
“I also realise how important the coffee trees are to my family,” says William.
In March this year William ended up producing 15 bags parchment coffee, five extra after he improved his garden.
“I know the more time I give to my garden I can harvest more,” said William.
Coffee is a seasonal crop so William is also raising some pigs to supplement his income, and earnings from coffee helps with his piggery and other integrated farming activities.
The challenge now is for Joseph to continuously look after his coffee garden, but a change from parchment selling to green bean is returning a higher price for his labour.
“The money from my pigs adds to my income but I depend on coffee money to buy feed for my pigs and also to satisfy customary practices,” says William.
When asked if he will budget the K4,000 he received from group marketing with his wife, he responded with a smile: “Children go to school so mama (wife) helps in the garden after completing her household chores. If I use the money myself she will not help to look after our coffee garden and pigs”.
“I will take the money home, put it on the table and talk to mama. We will buy some items for the house and clothes for our children as well.”
William and his colleague farmers under Kosem Coffee Ltd have been introducing improved gardening practices to produce high quality coffee.
The farmers taking part in group marketing are happy to get paid after some six months when payment is made for the export.
“These growers sell some bags to other buyers or processors of their choice to meet urgent family needs.
“The remaining bags they contribute to group marketing for Kosem to produce high quality green bean and sell to specialty market overseas,” explains Mark Munull, Operations Manager of Kosem Coffee who is also project coordinator of CIC-PPAP.
Farmer William’s contribution was part of an export to New Zealand, the 6th by Kosem Coffee. The first export was in September 2016 to South Korea. Kosem has also exported to Japan.
“We were concern with sustainability. We wanted a catalyst for us to continue to go to the farmers which led us to group marketing,” says Munull.
Project Manager for CIC-PPAP Potaisa Hombunaka says the foresight by Kosem and its hard working farmers fulfils CIC’s Tree-to-Cup policy which aims to connect farmers with overseas market.
“If farmers in Jiwaka can send six containers to overseas market I believe the others can do it too.”
It is a huge achievement for Kosem Coffee with the professional support of CIC officer Philip Puke and PPAP consultant Steven Tevo who started the ground work to change the farmers’ attitude who are used to selling of cherries or parchment on roadsides.
Hombunaka adds the coffee rehabilitation project under call 3 and 4 is shifting its focus to include marketing of coffee.
The CIC-PPAP component coordinator for eastern zone, including projects in Madang (Middle Ramu) and East Sepik Bernard Pilon, says outcomes and impacts were not in lead partners and farmers’ minds.
”Everyone was just going by the activities we’re implementing with no end in mind. The sustainability is important where group marketing for better price will encourage continued participation by farmers.
“Nevertheless, the PPAP modality is impacting farmers at different levels setting a benchmark for effective planning and implementation.”
The coffee rehabilitation effort is financed by a loan facility from World Bank and IFAD (International Fund for Agriculture Development) with support funding from PNG Government. The project is coordinated by DAL through a project unit set up within CIC.
Coffee rehabilitation activities are currently being implemented by 31 public-private sector partnerships like coffee traders, farmer groups, NGOS, CBOs and Church Groups in 10 of 16 coffee growing provinces.
The number of households participating in the project from call 1 to 4 so far is 35,161.
The author is Information & Communications Officer for Coffee Industry Corporation’s Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (CIC-PPAP).