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Sunday, Feb 17, 2002

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India may join Asian majors for coffee marketing strategy

Our Bureau

CHEERS! Artists from Mizoram tasting a cup of coffee at the India International Coffee Festival in Bangalore on Saturday.


INDIA may join hands with two other major Asian coffee producers - Vietnam and Indonesia - to evolve a common marketing strategy to promote their products in the international market, said Mr L.V. Saptharishi, Additional Secretary, Commerce Ministry.

Speaking on the sidelines of the India International Coffee Festival, he said, "There has been a request from Vietnam and Indonesia for holding a tripartite meeting and we are encouraging the idea."

The Coffee Board has been asked to get in touch with its counterparts in these countries for the meeting, which he hinted may take place soon. "The meeting would evolve various innovative strategies to coffee on non-traditional lines with a determination not to under-price or undersell our products," Mr Saptharishi added.

Mere curtailing production or holding back of stocks would not help improve the situation. "There is a demand projection. Production estimates and strategy have been worked out. Simultaneously, we have to work out a marketing strategy and we cannot shy away from that simply because we got to make the market respond to the situation. We have to be proactive and aggressive," he added.

The interest subsidy to small growers was for a limited period in the current fiscal. Whether "this scheme would be continued and extended to big growers would be decided in the next financial year." .

The Government is also examining the request for lowering the import duty on curing and roasting equipments, he said.

Earlier, addressing a session on `Coffee in India - Current perspectives and future directions,' Mr Saptharishi said, "When it came to traditional beverages like coffee and tea, the market has been mercilessly ruthless and brutal."

He asked the industry to evolve an aggressive marketing strategy and also explore a possibility of tying up cola majors like Coke and Pepsi to boost the consumption.

Giving a growers' perspective, Mr N. Bose Mandanna, said that future focus would be on promoting organic coffees and estate-branded coffees. Efforts are also being made to have small grower consortiums to offer larger volumes with better quality coffee under fair trade practices, he added.

Coffee curer Mr B.M. Mohan Kumar said the new opportunities of brand marketing was now available to Indian coffee and some big estates and traders have already started marketing coffee with their own identity. "The curing works is the ideal place where consortiums of small growers with mutual understanding can come out with their own group identity with branding of their coffees."

Coffee Labs CEO, Sunalini Menon, said there was a need to intensify the genetic research to enable development of plant strains, which are not only drought, pest and disease-resistant, but having distinct cup quality characteristics. It is also essential to evolve pure Arabica strains to help in preparation of specialty coffees.

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