Seed to Cup: Coffee Training in India
Demonstrating leaf rot
Did you know that coffee is the second most important product after tea for Asian Fairtrade producers? Several Indian producers sold Fairtrade Robusta coffee for the first time in 2012. Now they are keen to offer quality coffee in 2013 too. At the Asia Pacific Coffee Forum for Fairtrade producers held last year in Indonesia, Indian producers identified training on coffee production and quality as one of the priority needs. This follow-up training session was one small but very significant move to help achieve that.
More than 40 farmers from three Fairtrade coffee co-ops met at a coffee research station in Wayanad District, Kerala to get trained by the Coffee Board Scientists on the theme “Seed to Cup.”
Over the course of the day, various scientists gave farmers all kinds of information and tips. Mr Prakasan revealed that productivity in Kerala is below the national average and just half of the potential. Dr Suresh Kumar explained how simple interventions like timely pruning, grafting techniques and irrigation can vastly improve yields. Dr Vijayalakshmi talked of pests and diseases and informed the farmers of simple steps to ward them off. Mr George talked about post-harvesting techniques and highlighted how bad practices in drying and storage influence coffee quality. Outturn of coffee, some bad practices like excessive pruning, requirement of shade etc were also covered during the discussion.
Every farmer took something different out of the session. Annakutty liked the information provided on pests and diseases, while Sudha emphasized the relevance of grafting techniques to the farmers. George was particularly keen to organize a training for his farmers on post harvest techniques. Vineesh hoped that this training is only a beginning and talked of a more frequent training from the coffee board. All the farmers groups were keen to take up the offer to get their soil tested by the coffee board, and to receive their recommendations for nutrient application.
The organic farmers pointed out some shortcomings like lack of suitable information for mixed cropping systems and not enough stress on organic farming research. There is always room for improvement!
As the aroma of South Indian filter coffee filled the air, a drizzle brought the curtain down on the program. Meanwhile, I mentally started scheduling more coffee trainings in 2013 to benefit more farmers….
Raju Ganapathy is a Fairtrade liaison officer in India, supporting farmers to join and benefit from Fairtrade.