Sri Lankan specialty coffee in the spotlight at Melbourne International Coffee Expo.
Ada Derana: For the first time ever, Sri Lankan specialty coffee was on display at the Melbourne International Coffee Expo (MICE) 2022, held in September. The Australian Government’s Market Development Facility (MDF) supported the initiative, sourcing coffee from several specialty coffee businesses growing coffee in Kotmale and the Central Highlands.
MICE was established in 2012 to connect international buyers with sellers and bring the industry together. Following a two-year break due to the pandemic, the event was successfully held in Melbourne, a city renowned for its vibrant café culture. MICE generally attracts approximately 11,000 participants every year including café owners, roasters, equipment manufacturers, service suppliers and more. This year’s event also hosted the World Barista Championship and the World Brewers Cup.
MDF currently works with the Lanka Coffee Association and local specialty coffee businesses to strengthen Sri Lanka’s specialty coffee market.
“For many visitors at MICE, it was their first time tasting Sri Lankan coffee!” enthused Nimmi Galearachchi, Country Team Coordinator – Coffee and Agronomy Focal at MDF Sri Lanka. “They know Ceylon Tea, but few know Sri Lanka has an emerging specialty coffee scene. The coffee was roasted in Australia to retain quality, which enhanced the flavour profile. We saw a lot of interest from consumers and businesses. We are certain Sri Lankan coffee will be launched as the newest specialty coffee origin by international and local coffee curators!”
MDF also launched an investment prospectus at MICE, with information targeting potential international investors looking to invest in an emerging destination with a well-established infrastructure and plantation set-up. With the right investments, Sri Lankan coffee can be taken to greater heights in terms of quality and quantity.
“Melbourne is a coffee enthusiast’s paradise and an ideal launching pad for Sri Lankan specialty coffee,” notes His Excellency Paul Stephens, Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. “MICE 2022 was an opportunity to showcase the quality of locally grown Sri Lankan coffee to international stakeholders and position Sri Lanka as an emerging coffee origin. Growth of the coffee sector has the potential to improve the livelihoods of the smallholder farmers who grow it and to drive prosperity.”
Over the past decade, Sri Lankan coffee has been making a comeback following the industry’s decline in the 19th century. The timing is right, given growing international coffee demand. The global specialty coffee market is expected to increase in value from USD35 billion in 2018 to USD80 billion by 2025. Sri Lanka’s coffee exports have shown significant improvement, growing 84 per cent from 2017 to reach USD354,000 by 2019. Nearly 80 per cent of coffee in Sri Lanka is sourced from smallholder farmers in the central highland regions such as Kotmale, Badulla and Nuwara Eliya. Given Sri Lanka’s ideal climate conditions to grow coffee, the industry has seen increased investment from the private sector and an uptick in demand for locally-grown coffee in Sri Lanka hotels, restaurants and cafes.
Recognising Sri Lanka’s potential and ability to position itself as a supplier to growing global demand, MDF Sri Lanka has been working in the Sri Lankan specialty coffee sector since 2017. MDF has co-invested in multiple private companies with the intention of increasing production volumes, increasing quality in sourcing and processing, and improving industry coordination and promotion.
With the expansion and diversification of Sri Lanka’s export product portfolio, there are more products including food commodities like coffee being aggressively promoted in international markets. Sri Lanka’s export industry also receives much support from the many trade agreements as well as trade concessions enjoyed by the country. With value additions and diversification being given priority in the local export industry, local businesses are focused on promoting speciality coffee brands to capture the expanding global market for the products. Sri Lanka’s export industry has recorded growth and profits even amidst challenging economic conditions, indicating the business potential of the industry. Foreign businesses/investors could therefore explore the growing opportunities in Sri Lanka’s export industry, especially in the food and beverage sector.
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