The Irrawaddy

Fast-Growing Coffee Sector Looks for Extra Shot of Support From Government

Coffee beans are seen at the Segafredo Zanetti plant in Sotteville-les-Rouen, France.

YANGON— Myanmar’s coffee market is growing robustly, with the country’s beans attracting increasing interest in international markets as well as locally, industry sources said.

U Min Hlaing, secretary of the Myanmar Coffee Association, said demand for Myanmar coffee has surged in the past few years and it is now being exported to more than a dozen Asian and Western countries.

“Coffee exports are set to double from last year,” he said.

In 2017, over 100 tonnes of the country’s coffee beans were shipped to foreign markets while this year the figure is expected to exceed 200 tonnes, to about 15 foreign countries including the new emerging markets of Canada, Belgium and New Zealand, U Min Hlaing said, citing official data, which doesn’t include border trade.

In August 2016, Myanmar exported two shipments of coffee beans to the United States, the first commercial-scale imports in nearly two decades, after Washington lifted its remaining economic sanctions on the country.

Since then, the United States has become the largest foreign market for Myanmar coffee. Domestically, coffee consumption has also increased. As the tourism sector has boomed, the country has seen a wave of cafés open in past four years.

Yet, production and exports of the previously neglected crop remain small compared to the levels of major coffee-producing countries in the neighborhood such as Vietnam, Laos and Indonesia, U Min Hlaing said.

“We need to boost coffee production,” he said.

Arabica and Robusta, the main coffee varieties, are grown in many locations throughout the country, although primarily in highland areas in Shan, Kachin, Kayah and Chin states as well as in Mandalay Division.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation hopes to increase coffee acreage to 200, 000 and export 60, 000 tonnes by 2030, state media has reported.

Currently, there are about 50, 000 acres of coffee plantations producing more than 7, 000 tonnes a year.

U Ye Myint, the chairman of the Myanmar Coffee Association, said land conflicts in the regions as well as increasing land prices are the main difficulties for coffee growers seeking to expand their plantations.

He said the growing agro-business needed support from the government in the form of loans and better technology as well as measures to boost quality control and demand to support sustainable growth.

“We hope for assistance from the government not only moral support,” he said.