The official visit of the OKU Selatan District’s governor Mr. Popo Ali and his associates to Dak Lak province has been organized and hosted by Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung in November 2017 as a part of South-South exchange initiative. The visit of the Indonesian delegation was opened by a meeting with the vice-director of the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) Mr. Huynh Quoc Thich who presented the delegates with a brief outline of the government policies and economic factors that allowed the Vietnamese coffee industry to make a giant development leap over the last 20 years. He noted:
“In Vietnam, the cultivation area for coffee can no longer be expanded. We are concerned about the ecosystem sustainability”
In the meanwhile, the main concern of the Indonesian coffee industry is the fact that farmers pull out because of the low productivity, agricultural issues brought by unpredictable weather and non-transparent market prices.
The strategies that Vietnamese farmers use to deal with similar problems include intercropping coffee with fruit trees and pepper, adopting new technologies to cope with the changing climate and attending training courses to acquire more expertise in advanced agricultural methods and coffee quality. All of the above allows farmers to become more entrepreneurial in dealing with traders and controlling the quantity and quality of their yields
Coffee has been made a priority on a national level in Vietnam and especially in Dak Lak and other provinces in the Central Highlands, said Mr. Thich. State money is being invested in research and creating new coffee varieties. For farmers, government programs provide economic support, education and special loan schemes. Despite market price fluctuations, coffee remains a very profitable crop, so farmers who stick with it have stable income. Mr Thich pointed out that a number of issues are being solved through government cooperation with NGOs:
“We have been working closely with HRNS since 2005. At the moment, their research and practical solutions for water saving and post-harvesting are highly beneficial for farmers”
The future of coffee lies in further development of the industry as many Asian countries show a fast growth in consumption. Vietnam is planning to reach 15% of domestic consumption in the next decade. Vietnamese officials are planning to visit Indonesia in early 2018 to discuss possible areas of cooperation in the coffee sector.
Joint efforts in research and sharing new varieties could become one of the prospective areas of cooperation between the two countries. During their visit to the Western Highlands Agroforestry Sciences & Technical Institute (WASI) in Dak Lak, the Indonesian delegates were introduced to the institute’s achievements in creating new coffee varieties. Recent years of research and selection have resulted in twelve new breeds, some of which give abundant yields, like TR12 with its potential harvesting capacity of 7.6 tons green beans per hectare, some are highly resistant to leaf rust disease, and some have the cherries ripe two months after the traditional harvesting time. The latter has been gaining popularity in Vietnam, since in new climate conditions it often rains during the harvest season; hence later harvesting allows for sun drying in the dry season.
“If in 1990s the average yields in Vietnam were 1 Mt per ha, the new varieties give farmers an average of 2.4 Mt”
Speaking of quality, WASI researchers mentioned the breed TR11 that already received loads of positive reviews from international buyers. Apart from new coffee varieties WASI creates new fertilizers and designs training courses for farmers.
The leaders of WASI advised the representatives of the Indonesian government to work on policies that would prioritize coffee on a national level, pay special attention to training of farmers and adopt modern technologies in the coffee sector. All these issues will be discussed in further detail during the Vietnamese DARD/WASI visit to Indonesia in 2018.