Producers compete for international recognition
The Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) announces the first green coffee competition ever to take place in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. The event is part of The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) funded (CLEAN) Project implemented by Winrock International that is working to improve the agricultural sector with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), the Lao Department of Agriculture (DOA). The competition is also being supported by L ‘Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and the Swiss Development and Cooperation (SDC).
“The inaugural Laos Coffee Competition is an event designed specifically to identify and promote the best quality coffees in Laos,” offered Winrock International Chief of Party Alex Dahan, for Winrock in Laos. “The event will attract attention of domestic and international markets to benefit producers, market actors, and consumers. It’s an exciting way to motivate producers to improve their quality, and that quality increases access to markets as these coffees are promoted to specialty buyers through the competition outcomes and the auction that follows.”
Coffee Quality Institute organizes competitions to create excitement about emerging markets and has seen success with these events in the past. This year adds a different challenge, though, as this competition will be executed virtually.
“It is wonderful to see farmers rewarded with attention and sales after one of these events,” said Lisa Conway, senior director of operations for Coffee Quality Institute. She helped develop and execute similar competitions in Myanmar and the Philippines. “While we are executing this competition as a virtual -rather than live- contest, our judging panel is top notch, and the event will supply the same confidence in results we expect from those that occur in real time.”
The CLEAN Project held a virtual tasting of Lao coffees last summer, and this competition is an important next step in connecting market-ready actors to those who tasted samples of specialty coffees at that time and are interested in adding Lao coffee to their own portfolios.
Mr. Chantha Thippavongphanh, Director General, Department of Agriculture (DOA) said that the Department of Agriculture “is delighted to be supporting this Lao Green Coffee Competition 2021. In line with the Lao PDR Coffee Sector Export Roadmap (2021-2025) strategy, this competition carried out in harmony with stakeholders and donors, is supporting the development of the Lao Coffee Sector as a specialty coffee source and will help ensure that activities sustain quality standards and phytosanitary measures for export to the US, Europe and Asian markets and better income for farmers.”
Dr Soulaphone Inthavong, Deputy Director General of the Department of Agriculture- MAF and the National Project Director of the project for the Reinforcement and Expansion of the Lao Coffee Sector in Laos (RECoSeL) AFD funded project has stressed “The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has been cooperating with AFD for the development of the Lao coffee sector since 1998, through several projects articulated around research, farmers’ organizations development and the elaboration of sector policies. In the frame of this competition, the MAF is looking forward to seeing further growth to the specialty coffee sector in Lao PDR to benefit the smallholder farmers.”
Andrew Bartlett, team leader for the Lao Upland Rural Advisory Service (LURAS) funded by the Swiss Government said “this competition is a great way to shine a spotlight on the coffee produced by ethnic farmers living in remote mountainous areas of South-East Asia. These farmers produce great coffee, but it is almost unknown outside of Laos. It’s time to change that!”
“Yuni Coffee Co. has been working to provide support for the special coffee sector in Laos since 2015. While primarily focused on coffee in the northeastern province of Houaphan, we are really excited to extend our experience, partnerships, and support to farmers in other regions of the country through this competition and are happy for the world to have a chance to taste and understand the quality potential from this relatively unknown region,” said Steve Patton, Owner/Director of Yuni Coffee Co., LTD, and CQI in-country cupping judge for Lao Green Coffee Competition 2021.
Ms. Bounheuang Carol Litdang, President, Lao Coffee Association (LCA) supports numerous activities and initiatives to improve Lao PDR’s coffee sector which has a strong potential for growth through initiative such as Lao Green Coffee Competition 2021. LCA’s main role is through various activities and initiatives to their members are, to promote high quality standards to meet International market demands.
Mr. Benjamin Barutzki, member of the Specialty Coffee Working Group (SCAL) said “We want to ensure the sustainable development of a specialty coffee sector in Laos by establishing guidelines and providing technical advice to support more Lao coffee producers to successfully compete in the coffee competitions worldwide. Laos Green Coffee Competition 2021 will give us a great opportunity to provide input and support the participants in their endeavor.”
“There is a lot of pride in Lao coffee,” added Dahan. “That pride is justified, and we’re grateful and want to thank the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), the Department of Agriculture (DOA), the Lao Coffee Association (LCA), L ‘Agence Française de Development (AFD), the Swiss Development and Cooperation (SDC) YUNI Coffee, the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI), the Specialty Coffee Working Group (SCAL), and our valuable coffee farmers from both the South (The Bolaven Plateau Coffee Producers Cooperative (CPC) Bolaven Farms Plantation Hills Ltd, DAO Coffee Factory, Forest Plateau Lao “SLOW Coffee”, Green Hills Coffee “Kafe in Lab”, Sinouk Coffee, Jing Jhai Cooperative and the North Xiengkhuang, (COMMA Coffee Keoset Farmer’s Group and MXC Mueang Xieng Coffee participating in this competition for their support in executing this next important step for Lao coffee producers.”
Over 120 kgs of the finest Arabica and Robusta samples have been received from the participants following submission forms provided by The Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) www.coffeeinstitute.org following Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) guidance and regulations.
Samples have been prescreened in Lao by YUNI Coffee Co., providing the secure reception of these samples. These will then be shipped to the US before being re-shipped in small samples with coded names to international judges in the US, Switzerland, and India for final evaluation ranking. Awards will be given out at a ceremony in August of 2021.