In the coffee buying shed BU Kofi traded 82 tonnes of parchment coffee in the three months of May-June 2014. With a new team in place to run the parchment buying operation, they had a bit of a baptism of fire! Our entry into the market led to a price war with some of the regular traders offering more money simply to try and force us out of the market. This was good for the growers, but a problem for buyers, especially us. Global prices for the season were good, but the crop itself had suffered with lower yields. Some of this could be put down to poor farming methods and also an aging coffee tree which is in need for replacement planting. With a lower crop expected farmers were trying to sell everything that they had, including low grade beans. This definitely put extra pressure on the buying team to ensure that they were judging the quality right.
Some growers have reported having the same sack weighed by other traders and by us, and getting completely different weights - in favour of the trader!
This practice of “spring tightening” in coffee scales allows the buyers to pay a higher price but only because they cut out between 3-5 kilograms of the actual weight of the beans. It is deceptive for the average uneducated farmer who will simply listen for a stated higher price.
Our buyers had to quickly learn the skill of differentiating between types of moisture levels in parchment coffee, and also be able to identify quality of bean so as to set good prices. Further onsite drying means that less weight is sold on to the factory in Hagen. This weight loss has to be allowed for in the price paid to the grower.
The team traded 82 tonnes with an end result of a small net trading loss.
We believe that these start-up issues have been sorted, and will not be repeated this year. We believe that we have established the trust of the growers, that our weights and prices are fair.
The trading aim for 2015 is 300 tonnes. Weather conditions have led to an early flush of cherry, and so some trading has already begun (they had just under a tonne of parchment in the shed at the beginning of February).
They have some 40,000 seedlings in the nursery. These will reach transplantable size in June/July. The intention is that around half of these will be planted out in our own farm area, which is being cleared and prepared.
The other seedlings will be distributed to selected farmers who register with us. The current seedlings are at various stages, and are looking good.
We will also be supplying shade tree seedlings. This process is only just beginning. We are also looking at supplying seedlings of timber trees for forestry regeneration. Some initial eucalyptus seedlings have been commenced as a trial.
With the boom in the resource sector, development projects in schools, hospitals and shops, the younger generation wanting to change from living in grass huts to modern housing, the demand for timber in PNG has increased dramatically. Unfortunately most of the milling operations are non-sustainable and new tree seedlings are not being re-planted. There is already a noticeable strain on millable timber with sawmill operators now having to find suitable trees in more remote areas to supply the increased demand. Planting new trees for the future generation and also for the environment is critical.
A small area has been planted with 300 orange and mandarin seedlings. Our information is that citrus do well in the Baiyer, so this will be a test of commercial possibilities. Currently some of the seedlings are struggling, so we discussed issues of care for these. The suggestion is that they need more mulch around the roots.
Field planted with rice Trial areas of hill rice have been planted. This has been done in stages, with some of the latest seedlings just being planted out now, while the first planting is starting to form heads.
The problem with previous attempts at growing rice in the Baiyer has been that there are no facilities for threshing or milling the crop. We are looking at bringing in a Chinese made rice milling machine. We will construct a rice shed as the first building for the farm facility. This will be a very basic building to house the mill and some storage for rice before and after milling.
Rice The government agricultural college in Mount Hagen have supplied free rice seed for distribution to farmers. 1000 sample packs of 300 grams of seed have been distributed. This is sufficient for a 30m x 30m plot, and has the potential to produce a harvest of 40 kg of rice. The arrangement is that they will be able to mill it at our facility. The agricultural college would like us to distribute a total of 10,000 packs, which could produce a significant amount of rice!
We have so far only received a quarter of the promised funds from the PNG Government. By the time we have set up the rice building and machinery, and kept aside a float for the coffee trading (around NZ$20,000), there is not going to be much margin left! A further instalment of funds from the PNG Government would put us in a much more comfortable position.
Banzaid is committed to a further NZ$15,000 by the 31 March 2015, and another $40,000 by 31 March 2016. This is money that we have to raise in donations from supporters. If you are able to help, contact us, or use the online donation button at the top of the page.