There was this 21st International coffee Science meet in Bangalore not long ago.
35 countries grow coffee in the world and there is acute economic crisis in the coffee industry worldwide and most of the coffee growing countries are dependent upon this single crop as an export commodity and this very commodity determines the economic strength of the countries concerned. In fact, India is not a coffee dependent export country, we have other more major agri export – dependent agri commodities like pepper, cardamom etc. But tea and coffee are two commodities in India and the two crops are in crisis, affecting the growers to near ruin.
The International coffee organisation (ICO) executive director was in India, he had his own words of hopes and wisdom and also statistical backup. One suggestion he made was the example of Brazil which had boosted its domestic consumption, “spectacular success” he said, from 8 million to 15 million bags within a definite time frame. His prescription was : increase domestic consumption!
Coffee Board chairperson had articulated the Board’s efforts, more differentiated strategies for differentiated markets. Words? Yes, they are! Our scientists have their own hangups, using high sounding words which don’t mean ultimately anything, really!
Indian coffee exports had declined steeply, from 430 million dollars in 1998-99 to below 270 million dollars in 03-04. India exports 80% of its coffee production, yet there is not much demand nor Indian coffee enjoys any brand value, as far as we know.
Yes, the Board claims Indian coffee’s unique aroma and we are willing to believe and we also welcome the Board’s initiative to grow the Arabicas and Robustas in different agriclimatic conditions.
Indian coffee doesn’t have threat geographical brand like Basmati and Darjeeling tea or Malabar pepper.
There are gourmet, speciality coffee, organically grown crop, eco-friendly and fair trade coffee. But then all these differentian need huge promotional efforts.
The deliberations from then onwards drifted into nostalgia or history or literary praise of the Indian coffee and so on!
Coffee prices are a 30 year low and global demand for coffee remains also stagnant. It is high time the sector gets out of this mindset and learn to adjust to market-driven strategies.
Just to give how unconcerned the Indian government, Centre and the States in promoting coffee or the Board, how it had declined in its profile is just to see how in the major coffee city of India, Bangalore, the home of the Coffee Board how the famed India Coffee Houses are being run.
It be a standing monument of shame if any of the 200 foreign delegates had wandered into the Avenue road coffee houses, the first and the oldest establishment! Not lagging behind in shabbiness, unhygienic practices is the major throughfare, the arterial Mahatma Gandhi Road coffee house. So, what sort of promotion of Indian coffee we are all talking about?
There is no strategy, really the coffee board chairperson is talking about. There is none. The domestic consumption of coffee could be raised many times the present level, if really we draw up a strategy. In Delhi, the capital India, there is no brand name for Indian coffee. The London-based Ceylon Tea house serves the best tea in the world. We don’t have any such high visible coffee or tea establishments in the world capitals. What little is being done by some daring private players, Coffee Day Cafe and Barista and others. We need a strategy to brand the Indian coffee and promote it aggressively inside and outside India. Let us have a real strategy for coffee promotion.