Subject: Lusa: Coffee Production Threatened by Demise of Silk Tree

17-05-2002 20:58:00 GMT Invalid Hora local. Notícia 3669973

East Timor: Coffee Production Threatened by Demise of Silk Tree

East Timor could well have the world`s best coffee, but this could be its only export product to disappear completely in the next ten years unless the crop is revitalized and measures taken to protect it.

Coffee production employs and feeds a quarter of Timor`s population, although overall output is low at 100,000 bags a year.

In comparison, the world`s biggest coffee producer, Brazil, has a yearly output of 50 million bags. Vietnam has recently overtaken Columbia as the second largest producer with an annual production of 13 million bags.

Vietnam`s rapid entry into the world coffee market has been largely responsible for a plummeting price for the commodity.

Coffee is currently being sold in Dili and Ermera for euros 0.35 a kilo, the lowest price for 20 years.

Timor`s coffee plantations are also affected by a disease killing the large, quick-growing silk trees that provide a canopy for the plants to grow under.

Rui Melo, an agronomist investigating the tree-killing disease told Lusa that studies were being carried out in Indonesia, Australia and Portugal and he was worried desertification would afflict Timor if the silk tree disease is not eradicated.

Many plantations were neglected and became run down during the 24-year Indonesian occupation but Timor`s climate is so suited to coffee growing that many plants over 40 years of age are still abundant.

Abdul Allibhoy, a representative of a Portuguese coffee company said that, "Timor is the only country in the world where the coffee is totally biological.

The 800 tonnes of coffee that his company bought last year was of top quality, he added.

CJB/FP -Lusa-

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