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Coffee and Tea Reports from the Front Lines

Civet Cat Coffee-World’s Most Expensive Beverage

Taiwan - According to a report published in the Taipei Times, a cup of Kopi Luwak, a slightly oily brew derived from half-digested coffee beans and then excreted by the animal is now worth $325 a kilogram, placing it among the world’s most expensive beverages.

Kopi Luwak or the civet cat, as it often referred, live in the foliage of plantations across Southeast Asia are extremely fussy and only pick the ripest coffee cherries to consume. Once the coffee cherries are consumed they take the normal route through the animal’s digestive path. While the fruit of the coffee is being digested, the bean is left largely unchanged, eventually passing in the animal’s feces. The droppings and their caffeine-laden content are then collected by farmers. The coffee is then cleaned and the green, un-roasted beans are shipped to roasters.

An alternate theory to justify this coffee's reputation proposes that the beans are of superior quality before they are even ingested; though this is not to say that the digestive enzymes play no role. It is believed that enzymes in the civets digestive system break down the flesh of the fruit before the animals expel the bean. Many skeptics, though, dismiss it all as a weird and unverifiable marketing gimmick. More so, many discern that the strange method of production, not the taste, sells the coffee.

India’s Tea Industry Models Iran

India - The Indian tea industry, in collaboration with the country’s Tea Board, will establish a tea marketing center in Cairo to cater to the growing demand for Indian tea in Egypt as Iran emerges as a growing market for Indian tea.

According to the country’ Statesman, a New Delhi-based English daily, Indian Commerce Minister Jairam Ramesh said that Iran and Egypt were emerging as two new growing markets for Indian tea while Iraq, Russia and the UAE continued to buy about 65% of the total tea exported by India every year.

Pakistan, the second largest importer of tea used to import the bulk of its tea from Sri Lanka and Kenya, which imported 16 million kilograms of tea from India, including two million, from Assam.

Pakistan imports an average of 135 million kilograms of tea every year. Ramesh said that this was the first time that Assam tea had made forays into the Pakistani market.

The average price of tea in the domestic market increased by Rs 8 per kilogram in 2006, although the export figure remained static at 185 million kilograms, the figure in the previous year. South Indian states accounted for about 50% of the tea exported from India as against 35% share of Assam tea.

Ramesh said the Tea Board of India had so far received nearly 300 applications from tea planters willing to avail of the Rs 47.60 billion special purpose Tea Fund that would be spent over a period of 15 years to rejuvenate the tea industry through re-plantation and infrastructure development.

The Tea Board will hold the India International Tea Festival - originally scheduled to be held in Guwahati - in three leagues at Kolkata, Darjeeling and Jorhat later this year.

Nestle Brews Long Term Plan in Vietnam

Vietnam - Nestle pledges to continue investing in Vietnam’s coffee industry, said Pierre Schaufelberger, managing director of Nestle Vietnam. Nestle will continue to assist Vietnam in developing the quality of its coffee by importing high quality coffee seedlings, exchanging experts, and training local farmers in methods of planting, cultivating, preserving and processing coffee for export, said Schaufelberger. The company will also provide updated information on coffee prices on the world market, he added.

In 2006, Nestle Vietnam imported the first 5,000 high-grade coffee seedlings which the company then provided free to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Central Highlands Agro-Forestry Science and Technology Institute in Buon Me Thuot and to farmers in Dong Nai Province for trial cultivation. Nestle Vietnam annually buys 20-25% of Vietnamese coffee exports or 200,000-250,000 tons of coffee. Nestle Coffee Quality Test Center in Dong Nai Province checks the quality of exports, which are then shipped to 15 Nestle processing facilities world wide to produce Nescafe instant coffee products.

Nestle has operated in Vietnam since 1993 and has invested $83 million into projects on developing coffee plantations and producing coffee products in Vietnam.

China’s Tea Exports Hit Record

China - China’s tea exports hit a record $547 million dollars last year, up 12.98% year on year, on a total volume of 287,000 tons, according to the China Chamber of Commerce for the Import and Export of Foodstuffs, Native Produce and Animal By-Products (CFNA).

CFNA statistics showed green tea exports surged 6.1% to 219,000 tons worth $390 million, a rise of 18% year-on-year.

Exports included 21,000 tons of oolong tea and 31,500 tons of black tea, worth 94,330 U.S. dollars in total. The trade volume of oolong rose by 15% and black tea by 6.3% over the previous year.

China was the second largest tea producer in 2005, contributing around one quarter of the global tea production. Morocco, the U.S., Russia and Japan were the major importers.

Sharpening its cutting edge is still a challenge to China,’ said Cao Xumin, chairman of the CFNA.

China will hold the 2007 International Tea Convention and Expo in Changsha, capital of Hunan, China’s second largest tea export province. Business representatives from the world’s five top tea consumers - Russia, the United Kingdom, the U.S., Egypt and Pakistan - have confirmed their participation.

Coffee Faces Global Warming Threat

Africa - According to a report published in The Monitor, Uganda’s coffee industry could be entirely wiped out in the next few decades if the local temperatures rise by just two degrees centigrade, according to one of the country’s top climate scientists.

Phillip Gwage, assistant commissioner of the Meteorology Department said the anticipated increase in temperatures, caused by global warming, will render the climatic conditions in nearly all of Uganda’s coffee growing areas.

Coffee thrives in mildly warm and wet climate mainly found in the tropics. “Just a 2.5 degree spike in our temperatures is enough to cause a catastrophe for our coffee growing,” Gwage stated. “This is only a projected scenario but it is within range of parameters of the expected climate changes.”

Recently, a UN Panel on Climatic Change warned that the ongoing global warming crisis could see the earth’s temperature shoot up by between 1.4 to 4 degrees Celsius over the next few decades if no radical measures are taken to cutback on carbon emissions.

This, in effect, makes the prediction of a 2 degree increase in Uganda’s almost certain, portending a dreadful impact for the country’s agricultural sector. Coffee is currently one of Uganda biggest exports, bringing into the country about $300 million per year. In Africa, Uganda is the second largest producer of coffee after Ethiopia.

A majority of the coffee in Uganda is grown in the central region, which has traditionally enjoyed abundant rains and rich soils. The warming of the earth which has lately come to the fore of world attention, is caused mainly by human activities that cause higher concentrations of green house gases in the atmosphere, the UN panel said in a report released last month.

One of such activities that have ignited intense antipathy is the degradation of the environment through cutting of trees and conversion of wetlands into agricultural fields. Tropical forests and wetland vegetation help absorb large quantities of carbon dioxide, one of the gases said to be responsible for global warming.

Gwage suggested that it was irrational to destroy the country’s forests at a time when they appear to be the only bulwark against a potential environmental disaster. “I think we should be planting more forests but it is disturbing that we’re reducing what we have,” he stated.

Last year, president Yoweri Museveni requested the National Forestry Authority to degazette Mabira, one of the only remaining natural forests, and give it to Mehta for sugar production. His decision provoked criticism from environmentalists who argued that this move would have terrible ramifications for climatic stability in Uganda and the East African region. Executive director of Uganda Coffee Development Authority Henry Ngabirano said that the moderate changes in climate patterns that have been experienced in Uganda have already had an impact on the nation’s coffee output.

“For instance, South Western Uganda used to produce large quantities of coffee but the increased dry spells have made it unsuitable for the crop,” he said. The national production levels have also plummeted-declining from 400 to 350 million 60-kg bags.

Ngabirano said people noticed temperatures in some of the coffee growing areas now peak at 32°C, enough to scorch an entire coffee crop.

Tea & Coffee - March, 2007

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