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Maizefarmer

Coffee

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Although only really to be considered by those of us living in the highlands in the Chang Rai/Cang Mai region, has anyone cosndiered coffee as a crop - or does anyone actually farm coffee?

Thai coffe is sold in the USA and in Europe under one the so-called free trade brands (I use the words "so-called in inverted brackets because I have an opinon about just how free it actually is - but thats a subject for another topic on another forum). It sells well, and I personally think its a good product.

It's labour intensive and appears to survive on an economic model that is very co-op orientated - can farmers get out of the subsitance cycle of farming by selling their coffe harvest as independant entities as opposed to having to work through the co-op structure, which in it' self has a role to play, but as often is the case in Thailand, can also be a barrier to higher earnings. In some cases, like rice that co-op structure is a "can't do without" part of of the whole procedure of getting the crop to market, but coffe operates on a very different scale.

The coffee that is grown here in Thailand is almost all Robusta which is used for instant coffee, but some Arabica is also grown (have I got that the right way round?)- and that's good stuff which I buy as a raw bean in the local market - to take home and roast over an open fire, and then grind by hand when used. It's as good as any imported fancy European packed and branded coffee, at less than a 1/4 of the packed shop price.

Loei is far to low to grow the stuff, but Thailand is number 2 or 3 overall in South East Asia for coffee production.

The problem is, those areas which are good growing coffee also good for growing another adictive crop - it's called the Poppy (opium, morphine and heroin), so competition is ...er, steep.

Would there be a market: could some enterprizing ex-pat not farm it, process it and pack it, then offer it as a gourmet product on/to the Thai ex-pat market? Must be potential there.

I'd defienatly be interested in teaming up with someone. You supply the land and I'll supply all the the irrigation equipment, the roasters, the grinders, the packing and the logistics to distribute the coffee - and a load of consumer contacts (note: not wholesale - direct market to end users).

What is involved in growing this stuff, how long to grow before it can be harvested, how long does the coffee plant last, what are the yield figures per rai, what are the ideal conditions and land requirements, what does it sell for as a raw bean, as a roatsed bean, and as a ground user ready product?

What are the diesese issues, what are the water requirements ect ect....

Ideas, input & comment - from both a practical growing side of it to a business viability/partnership side of it all inpuyt wlecome?

Tim

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I have read several articles of people farming the highlands now. One Thai company gorws it under contract to all the highland land owners that used to grow Oppium etc.

Also Starbucks has its finger in already somewhere i read. Another Thai company which has the coffee shop franchises I think it was 'black Canyon' (should pay more attention when I read) is also involved in their own coffee bean growing.

I have always had this desire to run and own either a coffee or a tea plantation, I kind of fancy the idea of sitting on the balcony overlooking the fields from the mountain top and wearing a white linen suit and hat.

Some years ago I was looking at a coffee plantation in the volcanic mountains of Vanuatu, they had thier own very special gourmet brand and would have been a great lifestyle. But I know nothing about growing it, so never went any further than an interest.

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NAWTILUS

... the romantic image of G & T with a slice of ice and cube of lemon, white linen suits and colonial servants in starched cotten serving tea on the veranda of a Far East tea/coffee plantation in the late afternoon sun .... that olde world colonial image is appealing. Sure is.

Still interested .. or has one's interests moved on?

Tim

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Always interested in everything/anything to some extent. I did not pursue the Vanuatu coffee plantation because I had no experience or knowledge in it and someone else there at the time did and they took it over and seemed to have done well with it.

I tend to change careers every 6 years or so and usually go into something I knew nothing about prior, so why not. I would love to live in the cooler highlands of northern Thailand, but then I face problems with family and school etc.

But what is this I have heard many times about ownership of land in mountain areas is not allowed above certain heights etc ?

One of the articles I read some time ago as I said was about a thai entrepenaur who went around convincing and signing up all the highland farmers, many ex poppy growers and contracting them to coffee. So he has ended up with vast areas of land famred under his contract. It went on to say how hard a slog it was and so on.

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Nawtilus - yes are correct, there are a whole load regional/local restrictions and/or regulations pertaining to the ownership and usage of land that is officialy classified "highland" or "tribal district" land.

Exactly what they are I don't know, but if you approach it from the point of view that foreigners can't own land to start with, then as in in the case with all other land that is "owned" and/or used by farangs, it becomes a case of establishing just what is the best way to go about it under the circumstances - and there is sure to be a way to go about it, which as is the case with all land we foreigners use in thailand will involve the co-operation/participation of a Thai partner somewhere along the formality line.

I wouldn't see it as a insurmountable problem.

If you want to discuss seriously this time of the year up till early/mid December suits me fine - I have quite a bit of spare time on my hands and you can come round here or I can get to where ever you are. As far as any actual project goes, it won't happen overnight - it would take me at least 6 -12months before I'd be in a position to get anything up and going - and any case, I couldn;t see it been a project that will materialise in any less than about 1 year. But it all starts with a meet and a chat at some point.

Tim

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Quote;

Loei is far to low to grow the stuff, but Thailand is number 2 or 3 overall in South East Asia for coffee production.

..................

I don't know anything about growing coffee BUT Loei has the dubious distinction of being the COLDEST place in Thailand. Unfortunately I can vouch for that. When you get up in the morning and can see your breath it's too ###### cold. :o

I'm hoping for a mild winter. :D

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Gary A - yes, we have sadly noted that already (this area is to low).

I too live in Loei - pretty much at the base of the Phu Kradung National Park - and FYI - no, this winter wil not be mild: all estimates coming from the Met office HQ in Bkk are saying that we are in for a cold winter this year, primarily because the seasonal forecasts are suggesting that there is goiing to be little increase in the air pressure - the low pressure systems we have had so far this year (which brought in all the destructive rainfall) are not expected to dissipate untill at least mid-late May next year!!

Wrap warm and buy the kids new shoes!!

PS -where about are you based in Loei?

Tim

Edited by Maizefarmer

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Maybe thats why all the dinosaurs died around there ?? or was it bad coffee.

MF, yes, everything starts at the beginning. I would be keen for a chat if our paths should cross at anytime in the near or even distant future.

Not sure when I will be upcountry again, did 3500k's over last xmas, thats enough for me for a little while still.

I have a project here in Bkk also that I have to complete before i can do anything else, so dependant on that and 2 thousand and one other things probably, but always interested in at least chatting about new stuff and see what pops up.

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NAWTILUS

... the romantic image of G & T with a slice of ice and cube of lemon, white linen suits and colonial servants in starched cotten serving tea on the veranda of a Far East tea/coffee plantation in the late afternoon sun .... that olde world colonial image is appealing. Sure is.

Still interested .. or has one's interests moved on?

Tim

Not only is it appealing but as far as I am concerned its very possible :D

We have just planted (or rather my gardner has) 400 new trees ,bushes,saplings as well as a mixture of different flowers and vegs ..including nuts & daffodils (wifes idea) etc but never tried coffee which sounds very do-able..

I have insisted that we dont burn /slash or use any funny chems and low and behold some of our neighbours came round a few weeks ago to have a look at our latest batch of tamerinds,jackfruit and something else...oops forget...but they recon that we are producing the biggest samples that anyone has seen.

I cant compare cos I dont know what to ..but the as said Tams were between 12-15" long which I believe is good.

The jacks on the other hand were almost too heavy to carry.......just wait till the king eddies mature :D (spuds)

We (gardner) is now clearing our other bit @ 12 rai on the other hill/mountain for next year and coffe could be an idea .

We have always had good relations with our headman and our local village committee regarding whatever we try and grow so wouldnt image any problems .....apart from :D:o the Tigers...

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I am not a coffee specialist but have learnt a thing or two over the years. Arabica is usually grown at altitudes over 1,000 meters, but Robusta can be grown much lower - not 100% sure but I think most of Thailand's coffee (mainly Robusta) is grown down in the south near sea level. (I expect you can check that on the internet somewhere.

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JB - I think you are correct.

My problem (or at least my attitude) is that Robuta is no good - well, better put as no good for me.

My interest would be in fresh roasted coffee beans and fresh ground coffee - as a commercial product, to sell and market under my own lable. And to do that you need to grow Arabica, as that is what is used for fresh coffee.

Robusta is used almost exclusively for instant coffee granules - it has little to no place in the fresh ground coffee market.

Now I could be wrong in my impression that the way forward for a small own brand name product is to grow a high qaulity Arabica to market as a fresh coffee (because the public perception is that this is a better quality product).

My impression is that in growing Robusta I would not be able to offer it competively as a instant coffee granule, bearing in mind just how easy it is to obtain a sache of instant coffe granules.

My approach is very much "comercialy" driven.

But, by all means if anyone has some a contribution to make regards the growing of Robusta - fire away -lets have the detail.

Tim

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Loei is far to low to grow the stuff, but Thailand is number 2 or 3 overall in South East Asia for coffee production.

They grow alot of coffee at Buon Me Thuot in the Vietnamese highlands at about 550 metres above sea level more or less. How high is land around Loei?

Chownah

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259m I believe is the official average - but as can bee seen around the national there are large areas which are above 400m and it rises to around 1800 meters at the top.

The higher areas amost all fall within national park boundaries - which puts the brakes on farming.

Rainfall - I don't know how that compares to Vietnamese highlands.

Tim

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I think there are tons of coffee and tea plantations up Chiang mai / rai area. Just go to Doi Tung for a start. I think it was offered as a substitute crop for Opium farmers a few decades ago

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Skippy - yes, indeed it was. It was one of His Majesties projects.

Any idea how well its taken off - any information actually that you can contribute to this discussion would be apprecaited.

Tim

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