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PNG coffee has a c rack at niche market with US$30m package

As exotic gourmet coffee from Papua New Guinea ticked all boxes in an international ranking last month, the World Bank began preparing a US$30 million rescue package to rejuvenate the country’s ailing coffee industry. Stiff competition, declining prices stemming from a world coffee glut and slow replanting in PNG’s main coffee-growing provinces have had a devastating effect on the country’s export revenue.

Though PNG wields little influence on the world coffee scene, it has potential to capture a niche market and create a special and unique “PNG brand.” One of PNG’s growers bagged third place in a global taste competition recently, even though PNG is such a small player on the world coffee arena. “PNG’s coffee is achieving growing recognition internationally,” a World Bank report noted last month.

It said international buyers and exporters see tremendous potential for PNG coffee and there is untapped scope for farmers to capture higher prices for their products and ultimately increase consumer recognition of a “PNG brand.” PNG coffee has potential to put itself on the world map, acknowledges Arlie Huli, co-founder of Highlands Arabica, which sells gourmet coffee to roasters worldwide. “You’ve heard of Jamaican Blue Mountain well, there is no reason why PNG coffee couldn’t achieve this same recognition,” she said.

Production in PNG started in 1926 with the introduction of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee but later growers diversified into other high-thriving product types. “It’s got great taste, great aroma. The fact that it’s rare isn’t an impediment, it’s an opportunity. Done well, I’m convinced could be the best coffee in the world,” forecasts Huli. As reported in Islands Business last February, oversupply of coffee by such world producers like Brazil and Vietnam over the last four years has hit demand for coffee from small Pacific island exporters like PNG and Vanuatu.

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