Deep in the Pacific Ocean, situated far off the coast of mainland Asia sits the world’s fourth leading coffee producer. Indonesia is home to thousands of coffee producers, mainly smallholders, that have been growing coffee since pre-colonial times. Coffee spread to this lush archipelago after it was introduced in the 1600s by the Dutch. The famous producing regions of Indonesia include Sumatra, Java, and Sulawesi.
Today, nearly 12 million bags of coffee are produced each year, with a third consumed by the country itself. However, with the changes in climate, the volatile coffee market and increased production costs – producers are struggling to maintain yield and lack access to resources to combat the threat of the spreading Coffee Berry Borer (CBB).
In the Northern Sumatra province and the Aceh Province within the Districts of Karo, Samosir, Simduyan and Bener Meriah you will find a concentration of coffee producers amongst the quaint homes and flat lands. This region is responsible for one-third of Indonesian Arabica coffee and represents 9.7% of export volumes. Yet, coffee production is plateauing and beginning to decrease due to poor agricultural practices and understanding of the looming impacts of climate change.
This region is naturally wet and rainy, so harvest occurs throughout the year and cherries remain on the trees year-round. With temperatures increasing and with more coffee cherries for the pests to spread to – the threat of CBB has greatly increased in severity within the past decade or so.
CBB was first discovered in Sumatra in 1918 and continued to spread throughout the century. Within the last decade, however, nearly 80% of coffee trees in this region were infected, causing a 25-50% crop loss. This equates to a financial loss of nearly $30 – $60 million each year; or $375 per hectare. These losses significantly impacted the livelihoods of coffee producers – which is why ECOM, and SMS have been working to facilitate the spread of awareness within the past decade to preserve the coffee-producing communities and educate producers about how to adapt. ECOM has been a major actor in global commodity exchange for over a century and currently partners with Mercanta to source high quality coffee whilst supporting coffee producers along the way. Sustainable Management Services (SMS), a field network system within ECOM, promote sustainability projects and good agricultural practices throughout the Coffee Belt.
2010 was a milestone year as ECOM constructed the Indo CafCo Farming Training Center (FTC) in northern Sumatra, creating a facility for producers to access when in need of support to prevent the spread of CBB. This included access to advisory services, certification, inputs, seeds, and technology, in addition to support for farm management and financial inclusion. Overall, the FTC had a long-term goal of improving yields and quality to ensure a higher income for the producers. Additionally, SMS sought to lend support via the FTC to reduce the costs of production and the impact on the environment. The FTC and SMS also offers training and seminars based on sustainable farming techniques, financial literacy, quality assurance methods and working towards creating public/private partnerships.
Aside from these offerings, it became a primary goal to promote climate change adaptation and mitigation to generate farmer capacity building – targeting each step from planting, to harvesting to processing. Most importantly, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) systems were introduced. These were vital for the health of farms and preventing further spread of the CBB.
The Indonesian government and international convention, with new certification standards banned the usage of certain CBB pesticides (endosulfan, carbaryl, carbofuran) to prevent further environmental harm due to runoff. With that in mind, producers faced a dilemma of understanding the best plan of action to prevent further spread without the aforementioned chemicals. This is why IPM, and the SMS Triple Action system was the ideal solution.
Costing a producer only $100/ha; this organic-compliant and safe system ensured an infestation rate drop of 57%-41%. Essentially, the plan included the utilization of the BROCAP trapping mechanism, a natural predator spray (Beauveria bassiana fungus), and crop sanitation or disposal of infected cherries. Together, these three methods combined to create an approach to combat the CBB spread.
By 2019, roughly 847 hectares were treated, with infestation rates dropping significantly.
The BROCAP trap, developed by CIRAD, is a bladed structure with a wide diameter conical container filled with an attractant to lure the CBB inside, where it drowns in a water reservoir. The mechanism is topped with a shield in order to prevent any damage or foreign material entering. After utilizing the trap, research revealed that 97% of the insects trapped were CBBs – leading to nearly 10,000 captures per day.
By implementing the usage of the BROCAP within the triple action method – producers can begin to organically control the pest and improve yields. Post-harvest removal of fallen fruit is essential to begin sanitizing the plot of land. Pruning methods must be enforced to stimulate fruiting and control the branches. Weeding and soil clearing must also be done to create an inhospitable environment for the CBB. Whatever pest is left will be captured by the trap.
With the triple action method and the BROCAP, yields increased by 12%. It is advised to place 25 traps/hectare depending on the agroclimatic condition. The traps should be hung in branches roughly 1.2m from the ground and four months after the first round of harvesting. They are effective, low costing, and only need to be replaced every few years. The only recurring cost is the replacement of the attractant, which occurs every two months. However, depending on a producer’s location, treatments every 4-10 months may be required each year due to the nature of the wet and dry seasons in each region. In North Sumatra, with an extended wet season, longer treatments are required due to the constant flowering and harvesting. This may differ as you move away from the equator, and seasons are more defined.
SMS was able to reach and train over 10,500 producers to improve agricultural methods, utilize CBB prevention methods, whilst also increasing yield, quality and maintaining soil health. Additionally, SMS specifically trains producers on using the BROCAP and reducing the spread of CBB.
Mercanta works with ECOM and SMS alongside the Indo CafCo mill in the northern Sumatran Lintong region to source high-quality coffee and lend support towards the creation of adapted coffee farms. Around 5,000 producers within this region will grow and harvest their coffee from plots of land averaging on 1 hectare in size. Producers generally pulp the coffee themselves with the machine pictured below, to remove the outer skin of the cherry. The coffee is carefully placed in bags to ferment overnight to then be evenly dispersed on patios the following morning to dry. Collectors will come and pick up coffee from each producer and take it to a dry mill where it is hulled and rested before being bagged and sold.
Not only does Indo CafCo provide resources for processing and access to markets for producers, – but also acts as a guide, leading producers towards SMS and sustainable agricultural information; thus igniting the adaptive force to combat the changes in climate by incorporating the triple action method into their daily farming routine.
By educating producers about the threats of climate change and equipping them with the tools to combat these changes – SMS are creating a future for coffee in Indonesia. Here at Mercanta, we continue to support these producers and are excited to taste the future coffees from this unique origin.