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July 14, 2020
Business Life

Entrepreneur: Sydney-based Papua New Guinea coffee roaster seeks better deal for farmers

A Sydney-based company is looking to provide a ‘better deal’ for Papua New Guinea coffee farmers, and hopes to develop markets for PNG coffee in Australia, the US and China. But to do that, says Principal Pana Wiya, he needs a capital backer.

Coffee growers earn only 2 to 5 per cent of the retail price of coffee in supermarkets, or about K2.40 (A1.20¢) a kilogram, and that’s unjust, says the owner of Sydney-based Village Coffee, Pana Wiya.

‘It’s unjust because they do 90 per cent of the labour, and use their most fertile land to produce the beans. We aim to increase that income to about 30 to 35 per cent,’ he tells Business Advantage PNG.

Village Coffee is located in the Sydney, Australia, suburb of Padstow. So far Wiya has imported 15 tonnes of beans, from Wau in Morobe Province, and the Eastern Highlands.

Wiya has lived and worked in Sydney for 25 years, mainly in retail. He started Village Coffee when he realised that local growers receive a tiny fraction of the price of roasted coffee.

Roaster

Wiya has just purchased a 5kg roaster and is roasting, on average, 50 kg of coffee a week, which is packaged into 250g, 500g and 1kg bags. He sells directly to the public, via his website.

‘We’ve also been researching the US market and have registered our three brands with Integral Trade, a certification organisation similar to Fair Trade and the Rainforest Alliance’

It is early days. At the moment, he sources the beans from PNG exporters, but he says if he can obtain capital to process and market the beans, he wants farmers to set up their own co-operatives. He would then buy directly from them.

Export markets

In addition to Australia, Village Coffee has participated in two coffee expos in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.

‘The Chinese market is an especially challenging one, but it offers vast and exciting potential.

‘We’ve also been researching the US market and have registered our three brands with Integral Trade, a certification organisation similar to Fair Trade and the Rainforest Alliance, but which charges farmers and growers nothing to join.’

‘As well as the Village Coffee label for Australia, we’ve also developed Tenkyu Coffee and Kokoda Coffee labels for the US market,’ he says.

Expansion

Wiya set up his business four years ago. He is now seeking capital backing to expand his wholesale operations.

‘This includes new roasters and machines, employing marketing and coffee-knowledgeable personnel, improving labelling and the website, and developing a professional 10-year plan.’

Wiya aims to return K10 (A$4) per kilo to the growers, and an extra K2.50 (A$1) would be lodged into a superannuation fund.

‘Our initial estimates are that it would take two years before growers will see the sorts of benefits I’m talking about.

‘If you’re doing volume, you can more than cover your costs easily and pay the farmers more. Some coffee wholesalers are making healthy profits, so we can afford to pay PNG farmers more—and they do all the work.

‘This concept is not about maximising profits at the expense of lowly paid growers. Rather, it is to give them a fair share and to ensure their sustainability. The world of greed and money, and using other people for self gain, has to change.’

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