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Yunnan seeks to associate itself with coffee production

Updated: 2012-03-10 07:56

By Xin Dingding, Li Yingqing and Li Woke (China Daily)

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Yunnan seeks to associate itself with coffee production

While most people know that tea originated in China, few associate coffee with the country.

Shen Peiping, Pu'er city Party chief, is determined to change that.

The Yunnan province city plans to double the number of coffee plantations it is home to and work with the well-known coffee-store chain Starbucks and other companies to become better at processing coffee beans. The goal of it all will be to make people more familiar with Yunnan coffee.

About 60 percent of the 40,000 tons of coffee that were produced in China last year came from Pu'er.

Shen expects the size of the city's coffee plantations to expand from 30,000 hectares last year to 40,000 hectares by the end of this year and to 67,000 hectares by 2015.

"Many people also don't know that Yunnan actually produces very good coffee," he said. "Even we didn't know that in the past."

Last year, an expert from Starbucks gave a high rating to coffee beans grown on a Pu'er farm.

"The farm is at a high altitude, near the Tropic of Cancer, amid forests," he said. "That's why it can produce good coffee beans."

The top five coffee suppliers in the world, including Nescafe, Maxim, Maxwell and Kraft, all buy coffee beans from Yunnan. But because the ability to process the beans is lacking there, the province's coffee can be sold for only 30 to 40 yuan ($4.75 to $6.34) a kilogram. In contrast, roasted coffee beans can be sold for 400 yuan a kilogram.

"Selling this raw material is not our final goal," he said.

Wanting to have a high-end coffee brand, Pu'er is looking forward to cooperating with large coffee companies.

In 2010, the city government signed a memorandum of understanding with Starbucks that will have the company manage a farm where coffee will be grown for production. It will also open a farmer-support center and establish a demonstration farm that offers training about soil quality, tree planting and pruning.

Shen said that Starbucks' technical support has enabled Ai Ni Group, a Yunnan-based coffee company, to roast 3,000 tons of coffee beans.

"With deeper cooperation, the processing factory in Pu'er is expected to be able to process 100,000 tons of coffee beans in the future," he said. "That's 40 trillion yuan we are talking about. It's a grand plan, but it's feasible."

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