When Phul Kumar Lama operated a travel agency around two decades ago, one of his Japanese clients asked him about Nepali coffee. But all he could point towards was ‘Nescafe’, the imported instant brand that had become synonymous with the beverage in Kathmandu during those days.
On his next visit to Nepal, the Japanese brought with him some roasted coffee beans to show Lama what real coffee looked like. “That got me thinking,” remembers Lama, who had soon understood the value of the crop. For Kathmanduites, coffee was just a more expensive substitute of tea, but in the West, it was one of the most prized commodities. After reading up on what the crop was all about, he saw that Nepal, a mainly hilly country, had a suitable climate for coffee, particularly in Gulmi and Palpa.
He found out that coffee was already being grown in the areas, but in negligible amounts.
Having understood the potential of coffee, Lama took a bold decision. “I decided to buy the coffee from the farmers of Gulmi and Palpa.” His decision would prove to be a turning point not just for his own business, but also for the trade in Nepal.
Soon he was exporting coffee to Japan guaranteed purchases. They wanted more, but Lama could not give them more.
It was at the same time that Helvetas, a Swiss INGO started promoting coffee by training farmers. Lama, too, received training.
After the training, Lama and his fellow participants helped form the District Coffee Producers’ Associations (DCPAs) and also Nepal Coffee Producers’ Association (NCPA), a nation-wide collective. “We set up the organisation to safeguard the interest of coffee producers, ” says Lama, who is the founding secretary of organisation.
Lama’s company Mt Everest Organic Coffee now works with over 1,800 small-holder farmers in more than six districts. He exports around 1,500 kg of coffee every year, and sells more than 4,500 kg domestically. His company even runs a handful of coffee shops in Kathmandu. At the heart of his business model is his ‘buy-back’ guarantee. While he has his own farms where he grows coffee at a large scale, he also provides coffee plants to local farmers in districts such as Lamjung and Rasuwa at a subsidised rate.
In 2005, when the international demand for coffee showed signs of a slow down, Lama was left with over 70 tonnes of coffee he could not immediately export. That was when he decided to start his own coffee shop in the capital. The coffee shop, with its unique brew, became popular and was part of an era when coffee slowly found its way into the local way of life.
“We are just getting started here in Nepal,” says Lama. According to government figures, coffee is currently grown in 2,381 hectares (23.81 square kilometres) of land, just a fraction of the 1,190,769 hectares (11,907.69 square kilometres) considered suitable for the crop. There are various marketing tools that Nepal can make use of to promote its coffee globally, he shares.
Besides the ‘organic’ tag, certifications like ‘Fair Trade’ and ‘Bird Friendly Coffee’ also add value to the product, he adds. The community forests in Nepal, which have been recognised as a success story worldwide, could well be used to grow coffee, he shares. But quality should always remain the focus, he is quick to add.
Published on January 31st, Wednesday, 2018 12:59 PM
Source: Online Khabar (ENG) ले छापेको छ ।
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