Sunday 05 February 2023

VIETNAM – A better future is percolating for Dak Lak coffee

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Coffee is grown widely throughout districts in Dak Lak province and a cup of freshly brewed Buon Ma Thuot in particular has a rich coffee aroma and taste that is favoured globally.

According to statistics from the Dak Lak People’s Committee, more than 64 percent of the province’s population – over 1 million farmers – grow coffee as their primary source of income.

The coffee industry also generates more than 500,000 jobs, in addition to farmers, and the region produces more than 1.5 million tonnes of it annually, contributing to around 40 per cent of the nation’s production.

Last year, coffee from the province was shipped to 60 countries worldwide with an export value of $650 million and accounted for 90 percent of the total exports of the province.

Today Buon Ma Thuot coffee benefits not only from its brand name identification but from its geographical identification as well and the region is generally considered the coffee metropolis of Vietnam.

Coffee was first introduced to the region by French colonists in 1857. With ideal growing conditions, coffee from Buon Ma Thuot, known then as CADA coffee farms, gained a reputation for its superior taste characteristics between the 1920s and 1930s.

Vietnam’s global success in coffee, however, was sparked following the Vietnam government’s move to liberalise the economy in 1986. Coffee production has since expanded rapidly.

At present, Phuoc An company owns the areas once known as the CADA farms. The company was established in 1976 and it still preserves some vestiges of the original CADA farm and some processing equipment used during the 1950s.

Phuoc An is a state-owned enterprise that has divided the plantations into areas of a few hectares each and are allocated to worker families under a long-term use contractual agreement.

Phuoc An provides technical services like seedling selection, farming techniques, quality control, providing production materials and possibly credit support to workers paid back by coffee beans.

Working with global companies like Kraft Foods and Nestle, Phuoc An along with other relevant agencies has been able to modernise its cultivation and processing technologies and spread the concept of sustainability.

Large multinational companies need to ensure they have access to a long-term supply of quality beans for their instant blends. Kraft Foods, one of the two largest buyers of coffee in the world, has pledged to buy all of its coffee for its European brands from sustainable sources by 2015.

The spectacular growth of the coffee industry in Vietnam has been in reality the result of working with global multinationals to ensure quality and sustainability said Trinh Duc Minh, chair of the Buon Ma Thuot Coffee Association.

This relationship has directly led to Central Highland coffee becoming famous around the globe for its good quality and special flavour.

Provincial authorities in the Central Highland region always pay exacting attention to quality coffee production and sustainability, he said adding they have been successful in launching overseas marketing programmes.

Vice Chair of the Dak Lak provincial People’s Committee Dinh Van Khiet echoed Minh’s sentiments and said sustainability and global integration have led to a better future brewing for the coffee industry.

There are still many challenges to a sustainable coffee industry in Vietnam, but if all actors in the supply chain work together, they can achieve a thriving, sustainable industry for generations to come.

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