Asian Development Bank
Coffee industry specialist Andrew Hetzel was engaged to assess the coffee industry in Timor-Leste (East Timor) and provide an analysis of the potential for organization as an industry association. Following completion and presentation of that report, work is on-going with assistance developing and building capacity for the new organization through 2016. Development of an industry-wide rehabilitation plan began in 2017 with implementation anticipated in 2018.
Timor-Leste Coffee Industry Association Development
In December 2015, Mr. Hetzel was engaged by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Timor-Leste Resident Mission to conduct an industry assessment of that country’s coffee sector, specifically related to the assembly of a private coffee trade association. Coffee is Timor-Leste’s largest non-oil export and the primary source of income for one quarter of Timorese households. Coffee quality and productivity has declined in recent years. In TL, this has largely resulted from the lack of improvement in practices that have atrophied since the Indonesian invasion of 1975. Studies written by international consultants dating back to the country’s independence in 1999 recommend reasonable measures for improvement. However, little progress has been achieved and development projects designed to reinvigorate the industry have been mostly ineffective.
ADB hypothesized that past project had stalled as the result of poor coordination and cooperation by national private industry stakeholders. By bringing together representatives at all points from the value chain, ADB’s country economist theorized that communication among its disconnected and sometimes adversarial stakeholders could lead to new cooperation, and the creation of a democratic forum promoting advancement of the industry.
Consultations with internal and external stakeholders commenced in February of 2016, including one week in-country meeting with industry representatives. The resulting Timor-Leste Coffee Industry Association Analysis report (see attachment “Timor-Leste Coffee Industry Association Analysis”), confirming and proving a business case for the assembly of an association. Over 250 representatives from all segments Timor-Leste’s coffee industry attended the presentation. Industry feedback from the assessment was overwhelmingly positive.
Next steps were followed by stakeholders as shown in the document, leading to the formation of the Assosiasaun Café Timor-Leste (ACTL), or Timor-Leste Coffee Association. A founding council of industry assembled a few months later. Activities supporting the development, governance and formal establishment of the nonprofit legal entity followed. The new association came together to organize its first activity, Festival Kafe Timor, in November 2016.
After establishing the association, it was important to stakeholders that forward momentum be maintained through participation in an activity. Festival Kafe Timor was designed as a national event promoting industry inclusiveness and unity, while celebrating the country’s long heritage as a coffee producing nation. For the festival, Mr. Hetzel invited international buyers as participants, designed and officiated a first national coffee quality competition, and was a speaker at the event’s conference program. Daily outreach trips brought the international buyers to smallholder communities unable to travel to Dili, where they led mini festival presentations and cupping demonstrations.
The association has continued to build membership and established a headquarters office and cupping lab in Dili. Mr. Hetzel returned in mid-2017 to provide cup quality training, and to assist with preparations for a second annual festival (October 21-28, 2017). He remains an adviser to ADB in Timor-Leste as their coffee marketing specialist through a project tasked with the preparation of a national coffee sector development plan.