New coffee varieties for local growers

Six new varieties from South America are being trialled in Australia in a bid to boost the national industry.

In an attempt to support local coffee producers and boost the national market, six new coffee varieties from South America are being trialled in Australia, chosen for their suitability to the subtropical climate and for their smaller stature than current varieties.

The new varieties were sought out by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) and Southern Cross University (SCU) to ensure Australian coffee remains cost competitive and to meet some of the challenges growers currently face in harvesting their products.

David Peasley, a coffee expert of David Peasley Horticultural Services with two decades experience researching coffee varieties in subtropical Australia, was charged with selecting six varieties from Columbia and Brazil that would meet the needs of local growers and thrive in subtropical conditions.

The SCU, in collaboration with the Colombian and Brazilian authorities, will now grow the selected varieties in quarantine facilities before planting them in a field trial in NSW. Once the results of the trial are available, a decision will be made on whether to introduce the new varieties to the country.

Australia currently imports around 67,000 tonnes of coffee each year, producing just over 1,000 tonnes on home soil (Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation). The home-grown produce is split evenly between local and international markets, with Australian coffee enjoying a good reputation in regards quality, consistency and flavour.

However, growers have been facing difficulties due to the high cost of manual labour forcing them to rely on machine harvesting, an approach which means they must cut back their plants when they become too tall, resulting in production loss.

Jan Fadelli, president of the Australian Subtropical Coffee Association, said having access to new, shorter varieties “could be a game-changer for the local industry and bring in new growers”.

It is just unfortunate, continued Fadelli, that the results of the trial are at least five years away; “it's a shame these trials won't help our members looking to plant more trees immediately; however we must think more long term”.