Papua New Guinea Coffee and Culture
Papua New Guinea is a land that’s famed for its crystal-clear ocean waters, stunning coral reefs and dense rainforests. The diverse landscape of the country makes it ideal for growing a variety of crops including bananas, papayas and of course, coffee! However, despite the ideal growing conditions, Papua New Guinea only makes up 1% of the world’s coffee, but it accounts for 40% of the population’s income, making it a very important commodity on the island.
Keep reading to find out all you need to know about Papua New Guinea’s coffee including the difficulties that befell coffee growers of the island and what flavours you can expect.
History of Papua New Guinea coffee
Late 1800s: coffee comes to the island
Coffee plants first came to Papua New Guinea in the latter half of the 19th century and it was thought to first be grown by Emma Coe Forsayth, or ‘Queen Emma’ as the German colonists affectionately called her. A plantation owner and business woman of both American and Samoan decent, Emma owned both coconut and cocoa plantations in the Kokopo district and it’s highly likely that she worked with her botanist and planter brother-in-law Richard Parkinson to establish coffee plants too.
1920s – 1990s: highs and lows
It wasn’t until the 1920s that commercial coffee production soared and it’s been a bit up and down ever since. There was a huge increase in the 1960s which was due to infrastructure improvements which made coffee easier to transport. The trade continued to be successful into the 1970s due to a slump in the Brazilian coffee market as a result of frost. However, it’s not been plain sailing since. The 1980s saw a coffee boom but many plantation owners fell into debt they couldn’t pay off. It peaked again in the 1990’s, but there was a depression in coffee prices in the late 1990’s.
2000’s – today: challenges and improvements
In recent years, Papua New Guinea coffee has faced further challenges, particularly in the way of theft with larger producers reporting losses of around 50% each year. It’s not all doom and gloom though, a number of movements from both public and private sectors have seen Papua New Guinea’s coffee industry improve once more. These changes have focused on sustainability, soil quality and education for farmers in a bid to improve the coffee coming from the country.
95% of the coffee produced on the island is from small-holders who own only a couple of hectares of farm, most of which are family gardens! Coffee isn’t the sole crop either with many also growing bananas, papayas and legumes too. Due to the way it’s grown, most of the coffee in Papua New Guinea benefits as there’s limited access to pesticides or agro-chemicals and many farms are certified organic too!