Egyptians’ taste for coffee might be best summed up in the words of US musician and actor Henry Rollins’ quote, “What goes best with a cup of coffee? Another cup.”
Egypt imported coffee worth $48.151 million between January and July of 2017, compared to $7.287 million in the same period during the previous year, at an increase of 560.8%, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).
Egypt imports 40 tons of coffee beans annually to meet the local market’s needs. However, the imported quantity increased to 45 tons by 10% in 2018. Approximately 70% of coffee is imported from Indonesia due to its cheap prices and high quality, Chairman of Egypt’s Coffee Division in the Chamber of Commerce Hassan Fawzy said in a June 2018 statement.
On the sidelines of the 33rd Trade Expo Indonesia (TEI) 2018 at the Indonesian Convention Exhibition in BSD City in Banten last month, a deal worth $30 million was signed between Egyptian Haggag Company for Import and Export and Indonesia’s PT Asal Jaya. On the sidelines of the TEI 2018, Minister of Trade and Industry Enggartiasto Lukita received a complaint from Egyptian businesses that the imported amount of Robusta coffee was not enough to meet the Egyptian market needs. The minister has
since pledged to meet demand in Egypt.
On a Coffee Plantation
Business Today Egypt went on a tour in the largest coffee farm in Indonesia, located in central Java’s educational hub Yogyakarta, for a cup of coffee on the island. On an area of 400 hectares owned by PT Perkebunan Nusantara Holding Company (PTPN IX), 400 Indonesian farmers and employees produce 1,500 tons of Arabica and Robusta coffee each day.
Coffee needs a tropical climate to grow and a temperature of 21-28 degrees Celsius, and farmers sometimes depend on rainwater to irrigate the coffee plants.
“After rains, some coffee trees begin growing and its blossoms to look like Jasmine,” the guide explained, adding that one acre of Robusta trees produces one ton of coffee.
Workers at Coffee plantation- Samar Samir/Egypt Today
During the harvest season lasting from June to September, farmers reap the ripe red beans. Then, they start to trim the trees to make them the same height, allowing workers to easily pick the produce the following season, the guide added.
After the reaping process, coffee should be shipped to factories for the drying process. First, coffee beans are wetted so they are easy to peel; then, they are taken to a big room with iron-holed floors to allow for the drying process to begin. Meanwhile, the sorting process by female workers takes place as a second phase. Finally, the unroasted green beans are stored inside a silo, awaiting coffee traders, the guide explained, noting that Robusta coffee is categorized into three main types: small, medium and large.
The PTPN IX plants only Arabica and Robusta, not the more expensive Luwak, which is sold for $200 per kilogram due to its limited production, said Dandang Juanda, head of the Business Development sector of the plantation holding company PTPN IX.
“A cup of Luwak coffee is worth $50,” he said, adding that Arabica coffee is the second most expensive, with a kilogram of Arabica costing $6.8. Robusta ranked third at a slightly lower price per kilogram, he added.
For Egyptians, Robusta is in high demand due to its reasonable price level. Egypt mostly imports from Indonesian traders, but also buys from Brazil, India, Guatemala, Colombia, and Vietnam, along with 11 others countries.
The upturn of Indonesian coffee exportation to Egypt via the private sector has driven Jakarta’s government to enter into negotiations with Egyptian businessmen to export coffee more independently from the privately owned Indonesian company. “I think that when we have a contract with Egypt, it is the first time between the [Indonesian] state owned company and private companies in Egypt,” Juanda said. Both sides are still holding negotiations to reach a final agreement, he added.
“The company aims for a direct exportation line with Egypt, away from the traders, as a way to increase the company’s net profits and save money that goes to those traders,” Senior Vice President of Marketing Arif Budiman said.
Coffee planting was introduced to Indonesia when Dutch colonization imposed compulsory plantation of spices and coffee beans in 1832. PTP IX was founded in 1809 and is a subsidiary of the PTPN conglomerate.
PTPN has a 133,000-strong workforce nationwide, Budiman explained, adding it has 14 other subsidiaries for producing palm oil, coffee, tea, sugar, and tobacco, with a capital of $66 billion in investments. It has 288 farms, each spanning between 1,000 and 6,000 feddans.