JAN 3, 2014 (Ekantipur.com)–Nepal’s coffee output plunged 12.4 percent in the last fiscal year due to pests and ignorance about proper growing methods. The National Tea and Coffee Development Board (NTCDB) has blamed the drop in production on an infestation of the Seto Gavaro pest and management deficiencies at coffee farms, local news provider Ekantipur reports direct from Kathmandu.
As per the board, coffee production fell to 366 tonnes from 418 tonnes in the previous year. Similarly, the area under coffee cultivation shrank 10 hectares to 1,750 hectares. The board said that the Seto Gavaro pest mainly affected coffee plants grown at altitudes below 800 meters.
“Due to lack of proper knowledge, a number of farmers who were funded by various donor organisations for coffee plantation were among the main victims,” said NTCDB Chief Planning Officer Prem Acharya. According to him, coffee production in Lamjung, Tanahu and Gorkha districts dropped sharply last year although output had been impressive in the previous year.
Coffee is grown on 1,750 hectares nationwide out of which 1,000 hectares lies in the Western Development Region. Syangja district is the largest producer of coffee in the country.
Acharya also held lack of farming skills responsible for the reduced output. “ Coffee plants require adequate shade and they also need to be protected from frost. However, farmers were found to be unaware of the requirements,” he added.
More than 27,000 farmers in 40 districts are engaged in coffee production. It is grown commercially in 23 districts including Lalitpur, Gulmi, Palpa, Syangja, Kaski, Kavrepalanchok and Sindhupalchok. Acharya said coffee farming had been spreading in Gorkha, Rasuwa, Lamjung, Nuwakot and Dhading districts.
According to the board, 56 percent of the coffee produced in Nepal is exported. The main buyers are South Korea, Japan, Germany, the US, Taiwan and a number of European countries. Nepal exported 215 tonnes of coffee in 2011-12.
Meanwhile, demand for organic coffee has been swelling in the international market. “Organic coffee fetches 10-25 percent higher prices compared to the regular variety,” said Acharya. Demand in the local market has also been increasing in recent days, he added.
The NTCDB has been providing subsidised coffee pulping machines to coffee producers. According to the board, it will provide a 50 percent subsidy on the machines that will be distributed to 10 farmers’ cooperatives in the Western Region.