The Politics of Coffee: Jokowi’s Political Speeches on Coffee and How It Results Policy and Impact Towards Coffee Value Chain in Indonesia

by Radiv Annaba

This is my third year taking part in the coffee industry as a coffee individual. Why do I identify myself as a coffee individual? It is merely because I have been learning several roles in the coffee business starting as a barista and (hopefully) ended up as a coffee farmer. As I started my coffee journey and experience while I was struggling finishing my undergraduate thesis at my university majoring International Relations. In 2016 I started to enlighten my coffee experience by founding a student barista community and the following year I started to conduct a research on coffee farmers in Java. It has been a really fun adventure in the coffee industry as the matter of fact I’ve learned a lot from the breakthrough, difficulties, and failures that I encountered within these three years. In other words, there are so many potentials in Indonesian coffee industry. However, there are a lot of work to do for everyone in the value chain to make progress and make this industry sustain for better business environment in the future.

According to what I have encountered in the industry, I believe that the coffee industry in Indonesia should take a look more of the community that relies on coffee i.e. farmers, processors, roasters, traders, and coffee shop owners. Especially for farmers who live in rural areas far away from the city that has more consumerism and development. In a country like Indonesia, where democracy is still developing and the government are trying to find the best political and governmental system for the people, we still need more roles from the government to advance many sectors of the country’s development. For instance, coffee farmers are battling with the pressure of global capitalism in coffee industry. The global coffee consumption growth rate increases 1.3% per year and coffee producing countries like Indonesia should keep up with high demands on coffee production and supply. Knowing that Indonesia places 4th within top coffee producing countries behind Brazil, Vietnam, and Colombia. Yes, Vietnam. Our ASEAN neighbor has successfully increased its coffee production over the years within a lot smaller area than Indonesia has. We can compare how their politics is less developing than Indonesia, but through the government and its policy, their blueprint in the coffee sector is clear; to produce as many as they can.

I really admire Vietnamese government’s move. There must have been a well structured policy that focuses on the coffee production. With way smaller areas, Vietnam government can produce more coffee than Indonesia as they are able to produce 1650000 metric tons in 2016 while Indonesia produces “only” 660000 metric tons in 2016. I see this as a problem as well as a motivational inspiration as a coffee enthusiast. The Indonesian government under Jokowi’s administration put concern on some potential commodities including coffee. For instance, the ministry of trade has stated that coffee is one of top 5 priority of Indonesian commodity market and by 2020 the government will focus more on those top 5 prioritized commodities.

What about it then? Will that policy give impact to those who have worked hard in the coffee industry? What kind of impact will it result to the coffee value chain? I have put a unique point of view over a year on how Jokowi has started to put special “interest” in the coffee sector. Since August 2017 Jokowi started to make a speech about coffee and its potential. Two months later, Jokowi invited coffee individuals to a “Coffee Time with the President” during International Coffee Day. He gave interesting speech during that coffee time. There were coffee shop business owners, baristas, farmers, and traders attended the the meeting at President’s Palace. The speech was about how Indonesia is still behind Vietnam in coffee production. He also stated that Indonesia has the potential as the green bean price is increasing over the years and it should be followed by more innovations in the coffee business. For instance, he gave example how Tuku can successfully be a local game changer coffee shop as the President once attended the coffee shop down in Cipete, South Jakarta. He motivated the audience to be more creative and brave to innovate the coffee business.

I like the enthusiasm of the President but at this moment, our coffee industry is struggling with the value chain problems. Yes, indeed the green bean price is increasing as Indonesia’s coffee price is also among the highest in the world. But do the producers, the farmers get the best out of this good price? My research on coffee farmers in 2017 found that Indonesian coffee small holders are still struggling with keeping up with the tight market and competition. The pressure of global market and capitalism is right there. Not to say the knowledge on how coffee plantation is methodologically processed. The government involvement through policy doesn’t really help to make the farmers’ condition better. For instance, 8 out of 10 farmers who became my respondents were struggling economically in taking care of their coffee farms as the production and living costs increase annually.

This is the problem I stated earlier. Jokowi and Co. should start to deeply learn the main problem in the value chain from the farmers to local coffee shop business. I understand that through BEKRAF (Indonesia’s Creative-Economy Body) Jokowi urges to execute program for coffee individuals. This is a good move with BEKRAF but I think with such heavy duty, BEKRAF can only produce programs for segmented coffee individuals and in my opinion, it will not give a big scale-long term impact to the coffee industry and the people who work hard in the value chain. That is only one example at the highest level of government. Another example and problem is the innovation and market expansion (export, etc) the President wanted within his speech. While we are struggling in fixing the value chain problems, Jokowi wanted the coffee individuals to innovate. At the same time, research and development (RnD) is underrated in this country. In coffee sector we only have private coffee research institute. This is a big problem too. Jokowi’s administration have to think more on investing the state’s budget on enabling researchers do their job developing and solving a lot of problems methodologically including in coffee.

We do not have adequate database about coffee then how are we able to strive in this coffee industry? I understand that we have a lot of problems to solve. Thus, coffee individuals nationwide should gather and work together, expand the knowledge and tirelessly innovate for the better sustainable coffee industry. The government should do more detailed agenda in fixing the problems in coffee value chain starting from the very bottom problems.

For coffee individuals, my friends, if not us that start to take actions? then who?

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