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May new varieties assist to safeguard the way forward for Vietnamese espresso manufacturing?


Vietnam is the world’s second-largest producer of espresso. In line with the Worldwide Espresso Organisation, the nation produced round 33.4 million 60kg luggage in 2017.

Since then, nonetheless, annual harvest volumes have been steadily declining. Between 2019 and 2020, manufacturing volumes fell by 4.9% to 29 million 60kg luggage. 

Some 95% of Vietnamese espresso is robusta, whereas arabica makes up the remaining 5%. Sadly, robusta has a adverse repute due to historic associations with poor high quality.

As a part of bettering farmers’ earnings, bolstering arabica manufacturing in Vietnam has been a key focus for a lot of stakeholders within the nation’s espresso business. In lots of instances, this has meant trialling new hybrid varieties in addition to implementing agroforestry practices.

To study extra about these new farm administration strategies, I spoke with two individuals concerned within the BREEDCAFS undertaking happening in northwest Vietnam. Learn on for extra of their perception.

You may additionally like our article on introducing climate-resilient espresso hybrids in Vietnam.

picking ripe coffee cherries in vietnam

Challenges in Vietnamese espresso manufacturing

One of many greatest challenges that Vietnamese espresso producers face is the nation’s widespread repute for producing lower-quality robusta at scale. Nonetheless, past this, even the place arabica espresso is anxious, the nation’s farmers face a variety of challenges.

Laurent Bossolasco is the Asia-Pacific Regional Supervisor for ECOM Sustainable Administration Companies (SMS).

“Vietnamese espresso producers – whether or not they’re rising arabica or robusta – face challenges which can be additionally frequent elsewhere throughout the Bean Belt, such because the rising prices of hiring labour and fertilisers, in addition to value volatility,” he says.

“Though farmgate costs are presently larger, this hasn’t all the time been the case,” he provides. “Espresso costs had been low two to 3 years in the past; in some nations they had been even beneath the prices of manufacturing.”

Typically talking, espresso farmers must reinvest a big proportion of their earnings into farm prices on a yearly foundation. These embrace common seasonal upkeep, replanting previous timber, or shopping for agricultural inputs to take care of or enhance yield and high quality.

Nonetheless, alongside these prices, producers additionally must earn sufficient cash to assist themselves and their households.

“Whereas Vietnamese arabica farmers can largely cowl their manufacturing prices, our analysis has indicated that costs nonetheless aren’t excessive sufficient for them to earn a dwelling earnings,” Laurent explains.

“Round 17% of the arabica producers we surveyed earned greater than a dwelling earnings between 2019 and 2020,” he tells me. “Between 2021 and 2022, nonetheless, this quantity elevated to 85%.”

In addition to problems with earnings stability, Vietnamese farmers additionally face a variety of challenges so far as espresso high quality is anxious. 

“Most Vietnamese arabica is Catimor, which is basically grown in full solar situations,” Laurent explains. “This selection is extra proof against illnesses like espresso leaf rust, however traditionally has not been of top of the range.

“Arabica farms will not be irrigated in Vietnam, so extra unpredictable rainfall might have an effect on their progress and yield,” he provides. “Rising temperatures are prone to trigger larger ranges of pest outbreaks, which might pressure farmers at decrease altitudes to show to different money crops.”

Moreover, local weather change is changing into extra of a problem for a lot of nations alongside the Bean Belt, together with Vietnam. The nation’s rising annual temperatures might see a few of its coffee-growing areas decline in measurement and suitability by as a lot as 50% inside the subsequent 30 years.

“The age of espresso timber can be a problem that farmers want to deal with, so breeding and adopting new hybrid varieties which can be match for agroforestry practices may also help to deal with these points in Vietnamese espresso manufacturing,” Laurent says.

trays of hybrid coffee seedlings in vietnam

F1 hybrid varieties

One attainable resolution to enhance the resiliency of Vietnamese arabica crops is the event of latest F1 hybrid varieties – however what precisely are these?

Clément Rigal is a espresso agronomist at French agricultural analysis organisation CIRAD.

“First technology (or F1) espresso hybrids are made by crossing two espresso crops which each have fascinating traits, corresponding to producing larger yields and high-quality espresso, or having a better tolerance to drought,” he says. 

“This sort of choice course of has been carried out by farmers for hundreds of years, nonetheless, breeders at the moment are extra systematic of their strategy,” he provides. “They’ve entry to guardian timber from completely different origins and might extra extensively measure the efficiency of the F1 hybrids.”

Laurent provides: “Most arabica varieties grown presently in Vietnam will not be doubtless to have the ability to tolerate larger situations of illnesses and pests, in addition to rising temperatures and different environmental threats associated to local weather change.

“ECOM and CIRAD have developed breeding programmes to enhance the genetic variety of robusta and arabica,” he provides. “The arabica hybrids had been developed by crossing conventional varieties with wild varieties from Sudan and Ethiopia.”

Creating hybrid varieties efficiently requires intensive data and technical abilities, as Clément explains.

“The one F1 hybrid that may be propagated by seeds is Starmaya, however the seeds should be propagated in devoted seed gardens,” he says. “This F1 hybrid selection was developed by CIRAD and ECOM.”

Starmaya is a hybrid between an arabica plant and the rust-resistant Marsellesa selection, which CIRAD and ECOM first field-tested in Nicaragua within the mid-to-late 2000s. It might probably develop at medium altitudes whereas nonetheless producing excessive yields and fascinating flavour profiles.

“Hybrid varieties yield between 20% and 40% greater than their guardian varieties, in addition to the management varieties utilized in our examine,” Laurent tells me. “In our sensory evaluations, the hybrid varieties scored the identical or larger than extra conventional ones.”

discussing coffee hybrids in a greenhouse

Planting F1 hybrids on espresso farms

To ensure that farmers to reap the advantages of latest hybrid varieties, a key focus must be accessibility. Making it simpler to accumulate and plant seedlings, as an illustration, is one space to start with.

Laurent, as an illustration, tells me how CIRAD and ECOM have been supporting producers in Vietnam to plant extra F1 hybrids.

“The BREEDCAFS undertaking was first carried out in northern Vietnam, with a long-term goal of scaling manufacturing if profitable,” he says. “ECOM SMS additionally arrange a nursery and propagation website to hold out different trials within the Central Highlands to check completely different weather conditions.”

“The three business hybrid varieties which carried out properly in trials in Central America had been chosen for the BREEDCAFS undertaking in Vietnam,” Laurent says. “These embrace Centroamericano (H1), Starmaya, and Mundo Maya (EC16).”

As a part of planting these new hybrid varieties, CIRAD and ECOM have been encouraging producers to undertake extra agroforestry strategies on espresso farms. Basically, these practices embrace rising a variety of crops (together with espresso) amongst timber and woodland.

Clément explains that that is carried out for a variety of causes.

“In lots of nations alongside the Bean Belt, nitrogen-fixing shade timber are principally planted on espresso farms,” he says. “Shade timber can enhance soil situations and assist espresso crops adapt higher to microclimates, which may end up in higher-quality espresso.

“In Vietnam particularly, most agroforestry programs on espresso farms additionally embrace fruit timber,” he provides. “Some fruit timber compete with espresso crops and require excessive ranges of inputs and upkeep, however they supply farmers with larger financial return.”

Due to the elevated competitors with fruit timber, Clément emphasises why planting extra F1 hybrids is so vital for Vietnamese arabica farmers.

“The F1 hybrids developed within the BREEDCAFS undertaking are higher tailored to shadier environments than conventional varieties, corresponding to Catimor, and might develop properly when intercropped with fruit timber,” he explains. “Furthermore, fruit timber may also help to mitigate excessive variations in temperature because of local weather change, due to this fact supporting the way forward for espresso manufacturing.”

By supporting arabica crops to thrive in a better vary of temperatures, Laurent tells me that espresso high quality might be improved in the long run.

“Intercropping timber on espresso farms helps producers to develop shade situations,” he says. “This will make sure the cherries mature extra slowly to develop extra flavours and aromas.

“In addition to this, intercropping can present extra pure pest and illness management strategies, alongside elevated safety from excessive climate situations, corresponding to frost, warmth waves, or hail,” he provides.

Closeup of two workers on a coffee plantation in the central highlands of Vietnam sort and place beans in bags near Dalat.

How can hybrid varieties profit Vietnamese farmers?

There are clearly a variety of methods by which hybrid varieties with higher local weather resilience may also help farmers in Vietnam profit, not least by making arabica manufacturing extra viable. 

It’s vital to notice, nonetheless, that scaling the manufacturing of those hybrid varieties requires intensive assist from business stakeholders.

“Monitoring the affect of those agroforestry practices is critical,” Laurent says. “Tutorial analysis and public-private partnerships are essential to evaluate the affect of those practices on yields and high quality.

“ECOM SMS helps producers to optimise their inputs – corresponding to fertilisers, water, and labour – and due to this fact scale back manufacturing prices and generate larger earnings,” he provides. “What’s extra, this helped to decrease the farm’s carbon footprint and reduce the affect on the setting.”

And with local weather change changing into an rising concern for the worldwide espresso business, creating extra climate-resilient hybrid varieties has by no means been extra vital.

“Hybrid espresso varieties had been chosen as a part of the BREEDCAFS undertaking as a result of they’ve fascinating traits,” Clément says. “Beforehand, the choice was principally targeted on deciding on varieties with larger yields, in addition to a better resistance to pests and illnesses.

“In newer years, nonetheless, the choice course of features a broader scope to additionally embrace espresso high quality and local weather resilience,” he provides. “The aim is to propagate hybrid varieties which can be extra suitable with farming practices, corresponding to agroforestry, to create extra sustainable farming programs.”

Alongside this, a rising deal with bettering arabica high quality in Vietnam will profit farmers and the nation’s espresso sector extra broadly.

“Increased-quality varieties will enable Vietnamese producers to market their espresso higher, probably rising costs, too,” Laurent explains. “Increased yields, mixed with intercropping fruit timber, might generate larger income and probably create new further advantages, corresponding to carbon sequestration schemes.”

Clément provides that on espresso farms in Latin America, these F1 hybrid varieties have been discovered to attain larger than extra conventional arabica varieties.

“On espresso farms in Latin America – the place CIRAD first chosen and examined hybrid varieties –  F1 hybrids had larger cupping scores than Catimor,” he says. “In Vietnam, we’re nonetheless measuring the standard outcomes.

“Increased high quality ought to, in principle, improve farmgate costs, which ought to enhance farmers’ profitability and supply them with further earnings to face potential future challenges,” he concludes.

cupping f1 hybrid vietnamese coffee

With analysis already displaying that hybrids may also help drive up high quality and be extra climate-resilient, they might clearly have a number of advantages for Vietnamese espresso farmers serious about arabica manufacturing. 

Going ahead, the hope is that the uptake of those varieties might assist producers in different nations to undertake agroforestry programs and plant shade timber. Ideally, this is able to enable them to take care of present farm altitudes, versus “climbing larger” to achieve extra appropriate rising situations – particularly as local weather change turns into extra of a problem within the espresso business.

Loved this? Then learn our article on tasting “forgotten” wild espresso species: an experiment.

Photograph credit: Laurent Bossolasco, Clément Rigal

Good Every day Grind

Please observe: CIRAD is a sponsor of Good Every day Grind.

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