The Assosisaun Café Timor (ACT) is an association made up of 37 members from the coffee industry in Timor-Leste. Members include processors, exporters, retailers and farmers. The association was formed to support the development of the coffee sector in Timor-Leste and to improve the volume, quality and value of coffee sold for export market and domestic consumption.
Coffee is Timor-Leste’s largest non-oil export and is grown by around 27.8% of all Timorese households. The current average yield is 150-200kg of green beans per hectare, only 21% of the average yield in South East Asia and 10% of the yield achieved by productive plantations.
Simple farming practices such as replanting, pruning and improved farm management have the potential to triple the yield per unit, but farmers have little information on how to carry them out. Due to challenges with quality management, much of the Timorese coffee does not derive the best possible price.
Others in the coffee industry – such as baristas and exporters – also face challenges with regard to access to information, capacity building and understanding the importance of quality. As the competitive advantage for Timorese coffee is quality, having systems to track and manage quality better is proven to have the largest influence on processor and farmer income.
To date, the Asia Development Bank (ADB) has played a pivotal function in the sector, commissioning consultations with the private sector, government, non-government stakeholders and farmers, supporting the development of a National Coffee Sector Development Plan and establishing ACT, in close collaboration with MDF and UNDP.
MDF has been working closely with ADB to mobilise ACT giving them support including establishing the national coffee festival in 2016. In 2018, MDF is assisting ACT to establish and operationalise a cupping laboratory, where farmers, exporters and baristas can go to test the quality of their coffee. It will also support the hiring of a coffee processing specialist to enhance the quality management practices of ACT members. The cupping lab will not only be used for capacity building, but also for offering paid services to the industry – ensuring its long-term sustainability. Partnering with ACT provides an opportunity to reach a larger number of private sector players and farmers and address the cupping skill gap and knowledge on proper coffee processing.
MDF has already successfully partnered with Café Brisa Serena (CBS) to set up a quality management system and CBS is now a member of ACT. The partnership with ACT is a platform to provide broader benefits to the coffee industry.