Ceylon coffee is the next best beverage from Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is prioritising coffee cultivation with a number of plantations expanding into this industry, looking at capturing the export market with its speciality “Ceylon coffee”.

The government has also called to prioritise coffee crop and is looking at opening up empty state lands especially upcountry for cultivation purposes.

Sri Lanka which has a terrain and climatic conditions conducive for coffee cultivation was picked for this crop initially before moving into tea cultivation during the colonial era. Sri Lanka currently grows Arabica and Robusta coffee varieties.

Now the authorities, seeing a growing global demand for coffee as a beverage are hoping to ensure that Sri Lankan can produce its own coffee and market it to the world.

Today the main players in the coffee cultivation are the smallholder farmers and since three years a few plantation companies have joined coffee cultivation, yet the annual production capacity is limited to around 70 MT, Lanka Coffee Association Chairman Kushan Samararatne said.

“I don’t think we will be able to compete on the commercial level – we should compete in a niche market with specialty coffee,” he explained.

The main concern was found at the point of picking the cherries, which Mr. Samararatne said needed to be solely red cherries and not a mix of red and green which most smallholder farmers are unlikely to wait for.

In the short term Sri Lanka needs to consider importing coffee beans which would mean removing the import ban on coffee beans in place right now, he said. In the medium term there needs to be relevant coffee experts brought down to create more awareness and educate the growers on the cultivation of coffee.

And in the long term, Sri Lanka needs to focus on catering to a premium quality niche market that can generate higher revenues for small quantities in the export market, he said.

The bean scarcity is what is affecting the industry in keeping pace with a growing demand as the crop takes about three years to obtain the yields and five years to reach its full potential of generating about 6 kg of cherries per tree.

Planters Association Spokesman Dr. Roshan Rajadurai told the Business Times on Friday that they believe a gradual shift from tea to coffee cultivation is a proactive measure adopted by the government in line with the current trends.

He noted that as an industry they have for the past three years been cultivating lands for coffee on a large scale to mitigate the high costs and they hope to expand coffee cultivation more than the current extent.

With some of the tea lands better suited for coffee cultivation and with the global oversupply of tea that would generate lower prices, the tea industry believes it is a viable option to shift towards coffee cultivation.

“With our very high labour cost we will be uncompetitive in the global market so this is a proactive step taken by the authorities,” Dr. Rajadurai said

Source: Sunday Times

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