Story: Lao farmers reaching for global, organic coffee markets

30 juin 2021
ITC News

Consumers are increasingly concerned about the products they drink or eat – whether it is safe for their health or the environment. And the same applies to coffee.

The European Union (EU) represents nearly half of the world’s coffee imports. In 2019, the total coffee import was 3 million tons, worth €7.5 billion.

Respectively, between 2019 and 2020, Lao PDR’s coffee and tea exports to the EU has almost doubled, from €16 million to €29 million.

According to the Lao PDR Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, coffee is one of the country’s top three agricultural crops with the highest export value. It is only natural that the country aims to increase its coffee production to one million tons by 2025.

The Bolaven Plateau is ideally placed for producing high quality coffee and potentially compete in the market for specialty and organic coffee, products that carry premium prices.

Despite these opportunities, the Lao coffee sector faces many challenges, such as low farm-level productivity, lack of minimum quality standards, high logistical costs, as well as low capacity for research and commercialization, among others.

To address these challenges, the International Trade Centre and local partners of the country’s Ministry of Industry and Commerce along with the Lao Coffee Association jointly organized a training on how to start organic coffee farms.

The training offered Lao farmers, cooperatives, and small businesses an opportunity to strengthen their knowledge regarding the organic production, processing and marketing of coffee.

"This training is one of the solutions offered by the Coffee Export Roadmap, which the Lao Government has recently endorsed, to help Lao farmers and small businesses secure their spots in the global, sustainable coffee market", said Xaysomphet Norasingh, Director General of the Department of Trade Promotion at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

“It’s a win-win partnership between the Lao Government and development partners in the coffee sector. We love coffee, and Lao people produce great coffee, so the European consumers are ready to pay a higher price for a cup of coffee which is organic, respectful to the environment, provide decent jobs and make a positive impact in the community,” said Vincent Vire, Head of Cooperation at the European Union Delegation in Lao PDR.

Among the 70 participants who joined virtually from across Lao PDR, Phaengsy Daoduangdee, owner of Duangdee Coffee Farm, said: “I was able to gain a deeper understanding of organic farming and the process of applying for organic certification. In addition, I learned different organic ways to eliminate coffee pests, particularly coffee stem-borers, which have been a big issue for us farmers for some time.”

This training was the first in a series. The next trainings in the coming months will focus on organic marketing and certification and improving sensory and cupping skills for specialty coffee. In fact, Phaengsy has already applied for the second training, and she is looking forward to more practical learning opportunities.

The training formed part of the EU-funded initiative, the ASEAN Regional Integration Support to Lao PDR (ARISE Plus), that supports sustainable agricultural value chain development in Lao PDR, especially those based on organic production and fair trade – and ultimately, promoting inclusive economic growth, climate change resilience, mitigating vulnerability and job creation in Lao PDR.