Subject: RT: Bumper coffee harvest for E.Timor despite violence
Date: Fri, 02 Jul 1999 09:08:21 +0000
From: "John M. Miller" <>

Bumper coffee harvest for E.Timor despite violence 12:45 a.m. Jun 29, 1999 Eastern

By Tim Johnston

DILI, East Timor, June 29 (Reuters) - East Timor will record a bumper coffee harvest this season, despite some losses to political instability, an official said on Tuesday.

``This is the biggest crop in five to 10 years,'' said Sam Filiaci of the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA), a U.S. body that advises and assists Indonesian agricultural cooperatives.

He said the bumper crop, mainly attributed to La Nina rains, would probably be between 8,000 and 10,000 tonnes.

East Timor, which was invaded by Indonesian forces in 1975, produced about $20 million worth of coffee for the organic and specialist markets last year but has been wracked by political violence in the run-up to an August vote on independence.

Many of the farmers around the town of Liquisa, 30 km (20 miles) west of the East Timorese capital Dili, have been forced out of their villages and are unable to pick the crop.

The area is the source of some 20 percent of the territory's coffee crop and Filiaci estimated most of the crop in the areas around Liquisa would be lost.

``With Liquisa, the crop would have been around 10,000 to 12,000 tonnes this year,'' he said.

The NCBA, in association with the locally based PasKud Timor Timur (Centre of Village Cooperatives for East Timor), buys about 25 percent of the coffee produced in East Timor, almost all of which is Arabica and Robusta.

The NCBA-PasKud alliance has seen its turnover grow to between $4 million and $5 million since 1994, and has established the former Portuguese colony as a niche player in the coffee market.

Marsh said although some of the big buyers had abandoned the market due to the political risks, his organisation had encountered few problems before this year.

``In general, in all the difficult times, we have been able to operate. Even during the turmoil there has been a consensus to allow us to continue buying,'' he said, adding about 20 percent of East Timorese families derived their income directly from coffee.

``The demand is there for more than we can produce,'' Marsh said. ``All our coffee is certified organic. Because of the war, there has been very few agricultural inputs, which has allowed us to market it as organic.''

He put the success of East Timorese coffee down to ``clean environment, unique flavour profiles and high world recognition combined with good reliable quality.

``It has a character close to Centrals (Central American coffee), but also some characteristics unique to Indonesia.''

Marsh said a kilo of East Timor coffee was selling at $2.50 FOB Surabaya, and most of it went to North America, Germany and the Netherlands.

Coffee is the export mainstay of East Timor's weakened economy and if peace follows the August ballot, Marsh believes the bean would grow in importance.

``In the long term, increased production is possible, but it is a very difficult time for farmers to think forward.''

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