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The Domestic Market is Growing Faster …
Interview with Jawaid Akhtar, Chairman, Coffee Board of India

What is your assessment of the current situation of the coffee industry in India?
Coffee industry is growing in recent years with reasonably high prices and favourable weather conditions putting production and exports on growth path. The domestic market is growing faster with 5-6% per annum in the last decade and expected to grow. 

How do you view the Indian Coffee sectors’ significant progress since independence?
Indian coffee industry registered a remarkable progress since independence. During the period between 1950-51 to 2010-11, the area under coffee has increased four folds from 92,523 ha to 404,645 ha. The productivity also has improved by 5 times from 202 kg/ha to 838 kg/ha during the same period with highest productivity of 959 kg/ha in 2000-01. As a result, Indian coffee production has reached the level of 302,000 tons from a small 18,893 tons. Today India occupies sixth position among the leading producers of coffee in the world.

Indian coffee has been an export oriented commodity with more than 70% of the coffee produced in the country being exported. Indian coffees have shown a tremendous increase both in export volume and export earnings. Coffee exports increased from a small quantity of 2720 MT with export earning of Rs. 1.35 crores in 1950-51 to provisionally 294,362 tons with export earning of Rs. 3305 crores in 2010-11 and we have become fifth largest exporter.

Domestic coffee consumption has grown from about 18,400 tonnes in 1951 to about 102,000 tons during 2009. This translates into a per capita consumption growth of 51 grams (1951) to 90 grams (2009).

Where do Indian coffee industries stand compared to international coffee sector ?
India is the sixth largest producer of coffee in the World which occupies around 2% of global area and an average share of around 4% of world production as well as international trade. Over the years, India has successfully positioned itself in the global market.  India grows both Arabica and Robusta quality coffees.  Indian Arabica coffee earned premiums under the Other Milds category which are considered to be an alternate source for high quality Columbian Milds.  India is internationally known as the best producer of Robustas earning highest premiums in the international market.  The premium earned by Indian Washed Robustas ranges between US $ 400 to US$ 850 per tonne over international prices. 

What are the key issues facing coffee industry today ?
The issues like stagnant production, declining productivity, erratic climate and shortage of workers remain as the major constraints towards full revival of the sector.

Which are the thrust areas for coffee sector in India ?
The emphasis will be given for reviving the fortunes of Arabica coffee, whose share in the countries production has declined over the years due to low productivity, contributed by ageing plantations and increased pest & disease attacks.

Development support towards replantation, expansion, water augmentation, quality upgradation, value addition, mechanization are major thrust areas with a wider focus, to enable the growers improve the production & productivity of their coffees.

Development of robust domestic market is another thrust area which provides avenues for enterprise development through value addition while simultaneously contributes to creation of skill based job creation along the value chain. A robust demand helps to create a buffer for the producers against any international trade fluctuations.

Focus has been on increasing productivity and production of coffee, in order to maintain the country’s share of exports and sustain the domestic market requirement.

How do you look at the future of Indian coffee industry ?
The Indian Coffee industry is on growth path, as production and exports in the country are recovering with a promising growth due to favourable weather conditions and good prices. Further with the present promising growth in domestic consumption, the future of Indian coffee industry is positive.

With what objective was Coffee Board set up ?
Coffee Board was set up under the Coffee Act of 1942, and comes under the administrative control of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Govt. of India.

Till 1995, the Coffee Board had a pool (controlled) marketing system of coffee in India. However, the winds of liberalization swept the Indian coffee industry and since 1995, marketing of coffee is strictly a private sector activity. In fact the Coffee Board went through a massive downsizing and two-thirds of its employees were retired under a voluntary retirement scheme.

    Presently, the Board serves as a friend, philosopher and guide of the coffee industry in India. The Board focuses on research, development, extension, quality upgradation, market information, and the domestic and external promotion of Coffees of India. Further, the Coffee Board plays the role of industry spokesman to take up relevant issues with State and Central Governments and international organizations like International Coffee Organization and Common Fund for Commodities.

What is the exact role of Coffee Board in the Indian coffee industry ?
Coffee Board serves as a friend, philosopher and guide of the coffee industry in India and functions as a facilitator to the coffee sector as a whole.

What will be the future strategy of Coffee Board of India ?
Coffee Board would remain the friend, philosopher and guide to the coffee sector as a whole. Board would continue to facilitate industry in its effort to attain its potential while helping them to meet the challenges on way.

What are your Board doing about improvement of the quality and export of Indian coffee ?
At farm level Board provides support to growers under coffee quality development program and also through awareness on production of quality coffees for premium price realization. Board is providing incentives to support in establishment of coffee processing units of roasting, grinding and packaging units to augment and strengthen the supply chain for the value added coffees in order to meet the coffee demand at the retail end.

Under the export promotion, the exports to value added coffees and exports to far off high value markets are incentivized in order to expand the presence of Coffees of India in high value destinations while reinforcing our presence in traditional importers like European Union. The Promotional activities  for continuous interaction with the international Coffee Community centered around proactive participation in the International Coffee Organization deliberations, organizing Flavour of India Competitions to provide due exposure to our high Quality Coffees through the International Jury, Participation in international Coffee Conferences/ Events along with dedicated Cupping sessions to popularize the strengths of India’s differentiated coffees, supporting the Roaster’s Visits and recognition of Exporter’s Achievements through Awards.

How do you see the coffee industry in the year 2020 ?
On a growth path.

What about the recent activities of Coffee Board ?
The new initiatives like Support for mechanization of coffee farm operations, Mission mode action programme on popularization of control measures against coffee white stem borer, National Dialogue on coffee white stem borer research with ICAR were initiated.

Are there any comments on government policy ?
Government has been largely supporting the proposals of Coffee Board in supporting the Coffee sector.

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