New Challenges for Dak Lak Coffee

4:29:21 PM | 5/12/2008

DakLak covers big coffee cultivation area of more than 178,000 thanks to favourable weather and soil. Coffee together with rubber, pepper, and cashew are key cultivations of the locality, playing important role in the local economic development as well as agricultural structure. However, lots of experts have warned about unsustainable development of coffee industry in the changeable global coffee market and global economic slowdown. 
Robusta coffee cultivation accounts for highest rate in Dak Lak, Robusta coffee is very sweet-smelling. It is used to produce instant coffee.    In the current situation when Robusta coffee supply surpasses the demand and price becomes more changeable, one of urgent measures for Vietnam’s coffee industry is raising output and improving quality and lowering price to raise economic effectiveness and competitiveness in the global market. Coffee quality depends on breeding, cultivation conditions, cultivation techniques, fertilizer, drainage, harvest, processing and preservation. 
The majority of coffee cultivation area in Dak Lak is seeded. Of the total area, over 80 per cent are seeded by variety that local people get from high-yield varieties. Due to free pollination of Robusta coffee, if there is around 10-20 per cent of total coffee cultivation is low-yield variety which produces 20 – 30 per cent of total output, the total coffee cultivation will produces low-yield output with high ratio of disease infection. According to a recent survey from the Western Highlands Agro-Forestry Scientific and Technical Institute, as many as 60 per cent of coffee cultivation catch steel rust, from 30 to 40 per cent of the area produces low-yield output not satisfying export standards. Following the State’s instruction to limit Robusta cultivation and focus on the existing coffee cultivation area, Dak Lak coffee industry has met with many difficulties due to larger area of Robusta coffee cultivation. Nguyen Van Sinh, Vice Head of Dak Lak Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said: the province now covers total Robusta coffee cultivation area of 30,000 hectares of over 20 years old. However, the restructuring the area is not an easy issue. After three years of cultivation, lots of Robusta coffee cultivation areas faded without clear reasons. Some said it was due to lack of trace elements root microbe. Therefore, there should have urgent measures for the issue, as after 2012, the country will be home to 45 per cent of coffee cultivation area of over 20 years old that need to be restructured. If the country has not urgent measures to deal with the issue, the goal of having 500,000 hectares of coffee with output of one million tonnes will be out of reach. At present, coffee production and cultivation are facing with many problems that are needed to be soon dealt with such as planning for development, environment pollution, quality management, breeding, cultivation technique... 
Notably, over 85 per cent of total coffee cultivation area of Dak Lak is owned by local people, one around 15 per cent of the area is under management of companies, and farms. On average, each household owns 0.4 hectare of coffee. Some or around 5 per cent of households boast coffee cultivation area of over five hectares. It can be said that coffee production and cultivation in Dak Lak remains modest scattered. The province therefore should restructure coffee cultivation and production in models of groups, clubs, cooperatives, small enterprises, etc... 
In fact, many households harvest their coffee crops though 10 – 20 per cent of the coffee cultivation are ripe enough, leading to mixed coffee quality and difficulty to classify, especially for processing for export. In addition, due to lack of necessary premises for processing, drying and preservation, coffee model and quality is not the same which lowers profits. The Dak Lak Provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and relevant agencies and enterprises operating in the field have often warned local cultivators and producers to ensure coffee quality after harvests. They advice them to only harvest coffee crops when the ratio of ripe coffee reaches from 90 per cent to 95 per cent and not harvest 15- 20 days earlier though coffee price in the market can be higher at the time. 
Beside problems related to coffee breeding management, the management of coffee quality is also a thorny issue, though Dak Lak has given instructions on management of coffee harvest and purchase for processing. In fact, the issues are out of control because of ripe-unripe coffee mixture and lack of drying ground... The higher coffee price in the market is, the more mixture is found. 
The Dak Lak province aims to develop a sustainable coffee sector with focus on planning and investment in intensive coffee cultivation areas and restructure of old-aged coffee areas to raise productivity, quality, hygiene and safety in cultivation and processing (GAP and GMP). In order to further improve effectiveness of coffee cultivation and production in the upcoming time, the Dak Lak Provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and relevant agencies have announced measures including intensive cultivation, restructure, breeding, drainage, fertilizer, harvest, processing... They have also done researches on intensive techniques in three years with the aim to specify reasons for unprofitable coffee cultivation areas in the locality and restructure increasing old-aged coffee cultivation areas.

Hong Nguyet