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Economic potential for locally grown coffee

Monika Singh
Tuesday, September 12, 2017

COFFEE culture has developed over the years with people growing different tastes for the beverage.

While most countries have coffee plantations, there are some countries that have coffee growing wild with a huge potential to create jobs and generate income for those engaged in the industry.

Bula Coffee is based in Sigatoka Town and run by New Zealand coffee expert and manager Luke Fryett and it has provided employment to so many people both directly and indirectly.

Mr Fryett said the coffee beans they used for their product was purely organic and came from the villages up in the Nadroga valley.

The coffee beans are normally picked by the women from the villages that work with Bula Coffee and are paid $2 per kg.

Mr Fryett said the harvest season for coffee beans was usually during the first four months of the year which was also the time when they needed extra hands on deck.

"There are four of us who are based at the factory in Sigatoka but during harvest we have just more than 1000 people who pick the coffee beans," he said.

Coffee grows wild in Fiji and according to Mr Fryett it's organic which is what most consumers are after now.

He said the villagers were put through training programs which taught them about organics and how to ensure the crops they planted were organic.

"POETcom has been helping us with organics training and certification of our coffee and they also regular checks and visit the villages to see if they are continuing with the best practices," he said.

Earlier this year a coffee processor, purchased by the European Union funded increasing agricultural commodity trade (IACT) project, was handed over to Bula Coffee as part of their Tropical Cyclone Winston recovery action initiative, implemented by the Pacific Community (SPC).

Mr Fryett said the machines were for their operations in the Northern Division.

He said the coffee beans from the North were quite different from the ones they get on Viti Levu and for that reason they were working with a university in Australia to test the different coffee beans, trace their origin so that they find out which coffee was better for Fiji.

"We would probably expand to the Northern Division later but the fact is we have a lot of work here."

Bula Coffee gets beans from 38 different villages and according to Mr Fryett the coffee is not separated based on the village but separated according to the different taste of coffee.

The coffee beans are then put through the entire process including drying, processing, testing the moisture content and then roasting.

Bula Coffee supplies its coffee to duty free stores, Ginger Kitchen in Suva, the Galley at the Royal Suva Yacht Club and all Grace Road's Snowy House cafes use Bula Coffee.

Mr Fryett said competition was there because there were many bigger companies that sold coffee but the main attraction for Bula Coffee was the fact that it was locally grown and processed.

He said the other companies had a market share but as far as Bula Coffee was concerned they were the coffee industry in Fiji.

"It has taken a lot of investment and if we were really in it for the money then we could have just bought it from overseas and just used that.

"But we want to see the industry grow into a sustainable one and it could be a really big contributor to the economy in Fiji."

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