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Laos Pushes to Become Global Coffee Producer

At the remote, hilly Bolaven Plateau region in Laos, a coffee revolution may be underway. Sinouk Sisombat, president of the Lao Coffee Foundation and owner of a 50-hectare plant there, says he and others aim to show the rest of the world that Laos can produce some of the purest arabica beans available.

According to a recent Time magazine report, this represents Laos’ second coffee revolution:

The quest to produce world-class coffee in Laos harks back to nearly a century ago. In the 1920s, French colonists staked out the fertile Bolaven Plateau for coffee plantations, realizing that the region’s high altitude and mineral-rich volcanic soil were ideal for growing the crop. But within two decades, the promise of the small Southeast Asian country’s coffee trade was dashed by a medley of violence. Upon the outbreak of World War II, many French plantation owners fled.

Laos coffee farmWhile the majority of coffee currently being produced in the region are robusta beans, Sisombat and other farm owners are making a push toward arabica production. And although the timing may be right for Laos to make a move as a global coffee producer — considering recent poor yields in coffee giants Brazil and Columbia, as well as increased global demand — many experts suggest small-farm Laotian operations may have some work to do.

“There’s a kind of renaissance taking place where people are relearning how to make good quality coffee,” Ben Hyman, who recently helped put together an in-depth assessment of Laos’ coffee sector for the World Bank, told Time. That said, “A lot of farmers don’t necessarily have the best practices. Their crops might not be spaced properly. They don’t trim the crop properly. This has huge effects in terms of productivity.”

The full story: Time




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