Smell the coffeeWith coffee culture taking root in the country in recent years, drinking the beverage has become more fashionable than ever in Nepal.
With coffee culture taking root in the country in recent years, drinking the beverage has become more fashionable than ever in Nepal.
Not only has coffee consumption increased domestically, Nepali coffee, popularly called the Himalayan Beans, has also been gaining popularity in the global market.
Still, coffee production here has not been satisfactory. According to the National Tea and Coffee Development Board (NTCDB), domestic coffee production only meets an estimated 5 percent of the export demand.
The 2014 Coffee Data Base of the NTCDB shows that it was only after 2002 that a substantial increase in export and domestic market consumption motivated coffee producers to take up coffee farming. Since then, there has been a gradual rise in coffee production, and now about 1,760 hectares of land is being used for its cultivation, more than 10 times the land used for the purpose 20 years ago. However, it is estimated that 1.1m hectares of land is still available for coffee cultivation.Nepal only needs to look at its southern neighbour to see what less than half that amount of land can do for coffee farming. In 2011 India produced 314,000 tonnes of coffee from about 410,000 hectares of land, for a crop value of roughly $1billion.
Coffee farming is considered promising in Nepal mainly due to the nature of soil and a favourable climate. It grows well at an altitude of 1,100 metres and above. Its farming is most suitable for the mid-hills—43 percent of the total land area of the country—as it can be grown on slopes without requiring much care and commands high price in niche markets. It is much more lucrative than traditional crops such as maize and millet. The huge demand for Nepali coffee is an opportunity that the country’s agriculture sector should take advantage of.
Given that coffee farming has a competitive advantage in Nepal, coffee is an ideal cash crop for Nepali farmers. But as it is a relatively new crop, many farmers are still hesitant to make the switch. Moreover, due to a lack of expertise, producing coffee has not been without challenges. As such, the government needs to formulate policies that incentivise more farmers to take up coffee farming.
To this end, the government can impart techniques to improve the quality of the beans, make arrangements to assure availability of source seeds and raise awareness among farmers about the benefits of coffee farming. Upgrading collection, processing and marketing related infrastructures, and identifying suitable pockets for specialty coffee production and developing them as coffee zones can go a long way in boosting production. But good understanding and cooperation among the coffee value chain actors and financing institutions are essential for higher production and exports.