The first green coffee competition ever to take place in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic is underway, part of a broad multi-stakeholder effort to boost the country’s agricultural sector and forge international market connections.
Currently, 120 kilograms of arabica and robusta samples that were organized by the United States-based nonprofit Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) and pre-screened by Lao coffee company Yuni Coffee Co. are making their way to international judges in the U.S., Switzerland and India for evaluation and ranking.
An awards ceremony is scheduled for Aug. 2021, just ahead of the largest U.S. professional coffee gathering, the Specialty Coffee Expo, which takes place Sept. 30 – Oct. 3 in New Orleans.
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The green coffee competition is part of a United States Department of Agriculture-funded project known as CLEAN that is being implemented by the nonprofit Winrock International over four years to promote the agricultural sector and market linkages, with particular emphasis on supporting ethnic farming communities in rural Laos.
Along with CQI as a coffee development expert, other parties involved in the competition program include the Lao Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), the Lao Department of Agriculture (DOA), the French development agency L ‘Agence Française de Développement (AFD), and the Swiss agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
The green coffee competition is taking place remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while the agencies plan to promote the results to international buyers.
“It is wonderful to see farmers rewarded with attention and sales after one of these events,” Lisa Conway, the senior director of operations for CQI, said in an announcement from the group.
Bordering Myanmar to the southeast and nestled between other major Southeast Asian countries Vietnam and Thailand, Laos has historically commercially cultivated both robusta and arabica coffees.
According to the most recent assessments from the USDA’s own Foreign Agriculture Services department, production of the important cash crop in Laos has hovered between about 375 to 450 60-kilogram bags over the past five years. In terms of volume, those numbers are on par with other small producers such as Venezuala and Cameroon, and loosely about one-tenth of the production of Peru.
“While primarily focused on coffee in the northeastern province of Houaphan, we are really excited to extend our experience, partnerships, and support to farmers in other regions of the country through this competition and are happy for the world to have a chance to taste and understand the quality potential from this relatively unknown region,” Steve Patton, the owner and director of Yuni Coffee Co., and CQI in-country cupping judge for the competion, said in the announcement.