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  • QA 173
    Question:
    Where to find help in growing coffee from seed in Australia?
    Background:
    I am looking for suppliers of arabica coffee seeds. I am hoping to begin a small coffee plantation and am having great difficulty in finding information on the growing of coffee in Australia, let alone where to purchase seeds. Could you please forward any information of growing coffee from seeds in Australia?
    Asked by:
    Aspiring grower - Australia
    Answer:

    Australia is not generally known as a coffee producing country. Yet there is a small but thriving coffee industry and we suggest you contact the Queensland Department of Primary Industries (Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation or RIRDC) at Mareeba, Queensland*.  There is also the  Australian Coffee Growers Association - see http://www.auscoffee.com/members.shtml . Apart from Queensland coffee is also grown in Northern New South Wales.

    As explained in Q&A 069 in the Q&A Archive, questions deaing with agronomy are beyond the scope of the Coffee Guide as the Guide deals with the post harvest cycle only. Nevertheless…

    Target market: As a new producer, starting from scratch, it is unlikely you will be able to enter the export market for quite some years to come. Thus certainly your initial target market will be local. Coffee culture is growing strongly in Australia and provided your quality is good then marketing a roasted product, rather than green bean, may be an advantage.

    Cultivar: Yield capacity and disease resistance apart, what will be the likely quality attributes under your growing conditions? And will those suit your target market? There is always a choice to be made between plant output and disease resistance on the one hand, and coffee quality on the other. We would suggest that both RIRDC and already established growers can help you here with advice.

    Seed: Seed should only be purchased from recognised suppliers who can get it to you as soon as the seeds are ready. Seed loses its viability fairly rapidly but can be stored for periods of up to six months if held in parchment under proper storage conditions. Seed should only be collected from disease-free trees… Again, we would suggest turning to established growers and/or RIRDC for help as we doubt that direct importation of seed from outside Australia is permitted.

    Mechanisation: Given the cost of labour in your country, will you be able to afford the mechanisation that is necessary to contain the cost of pruning, harvesting etc? In this regard it is useful to know that apart from the traditional large tractor-drawn or self-propelled mechanical harvesting units, hand-held machines are now also available. For example from Brazil.

    We suggest, if not already done, to read chapters 3 and 11 of the Guide for more background information on Niche Markets and Coffee Quality.

    Posted 05 December 2007

    * Visithttp://www.rirdc.gov.au/pub/handbook/coffee.html - the following is quoted from the introduction to the Coffee Chapter of this RIRDC publication:

    "Interest in re-establishing Australia's coffee industry rekindled in the mid 1980s with the advent of machine harvesting, followed by the development of management systems to produce a high quality coffee, and the attraction of a domestic market now worth $483 million in retail value. Australia's high labour costs early this century were largely responsible for the decline of the local coffee industry. We could not compete with countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia and Central America who dominate the world coffee trade, which is now worth a massive $A24 billion annually.
    With machine-harvesting, an Australian coffee industry could reduce its harvesting costs to one tenth of the cost of hand-harvesting and so be more cost-competitive with imported coffees. There is however a limit to the protected, frost-free land available for the production of high-quality, high-yielding, machine-harvested coffee. The sub-tropical growing areas of eastern Australia favour the production of high quality `Arabica' coffee which is preferred for the expanding `Roast and Ground' market. Many of the traditional production, harvesting and processing techniques have had to be modified or replaced to suit mechanisation and the different economic and climatic conditions in Australia. Freshness, a lower caffeine content and a `pesticide free' or `organically grown' image are attractive qualities of Australian Arabica coffee. There is also interest overseas in the mild, medium-acidity, `stomach-friendly', speciality coffees which are being produced. The challenge is to produce enough consistent quality coffee to take advantage of these market opportunities. Growers will have to cooperate in eliminating the individualism and poor practices which have led to industry fragmentation and inconsistent quality. Coffee is free of major pests and diseases, and can be grown near urban areas. Moreover, the coffee growing areas of Australia are well supported by the high-quality engineering, fabrication and servicing expertise needed for machine harvesting and processing. "

    Related chapter(s):
    Related Q & A:
    Q&A 069