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JIS News

The Coffee Industry Board (CIB), held a successful meeting with coffee farmers to address several burning issues affecting the sector, Tuesday, (Feb. 3).
Chief among the issues were the pricing of coffee, production levels, pest management, fertiliser and continuous training for farmers and growers.
Director General of the CIB, Christopher Gentles, told JIS News that he was pleased with the outcome of the meeting, held at Hayfield Square, St. Thomas. It was one in a series of islandwide meetings planned by the CIB, and though some of the issues raised were tenacious, farmers were able to get answers.
“We wanted to give farmers an update on production, which is a little down. We are looking at revising our original projection slightly downwards, from 360,000 boxes to just a little over 300,000 boxes. The focus, however, was productivity and looking at the CIB initiatives to allow the farmer to become more productive,” he said.
Of special interest to farmers, was the issue of pest management, in particular the control of the Berry Borer infestation which, initial studies indicate, is in excess of 10 per cent for the industry to date.
He said that this could translate to a loss as high as US$2.5 million. The CIB is looking at deepening its training programme, by encouraging farmers to strip their coffee trees and develop an inexpensive trap from a 20 ounce soda bottle, he said.
He added that if farmers adopted this process, it would lead to a significant reduction in the infestation of the Berry Borer.
On the vexing issue of how a box of coffee is priced, Mr. Gentles went to great lengths to explain the process. He pointed out that the Coffee Industry Board was not involved in the pricing of coffee, but that it was done through a competitive pricing mechanism.
He also explained some of the factors affecting pricing, including the fact that coffee had a relatively high level of defects compared to other agricultural crops.
“Much of the coffee has as much as 25 per cent defects, and that this impacts on the ability of the coffee dealer to pay them a higher price and to communicate to them that a box of ‘cherry’, after it is floated, still has challenges. That’s not where the story ends. There’s a quality story beneath that, and we can improve that significantly, stabilise the industry and improve our earnings simultaneously,” he told JIS News.
The CIB Director General reassured that despite the downturn in the global economy, the sector was not feeling the effects, as orders were pre-placed. But, meetings were being planned with dealers to discuss the future.
“We had contracts that were negotiated before the full impact of the global financial crisis hit. We’re still not sure of the extent of the crisis, or its impact. We’re planning to look at the possibilities and to mitigate them, but right now it’s a watch and see game,” he said.
During the meeting, farmers were addressed by technical sales representative for Newport Fersan, the local fertiliser manufacturer, Dunstan Gaynor, who explained that the lowering of inputs on the world market has led to the dramatic reduction of the price of fertiliser manufactured locally.