Challenges Facing Coffee Business in West Papua Today

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One of the Papuan Coffee Farmers
One of the Papuan Coffee Farmers

There are at least three challenges facing the Coffee Business in West Papua (Papua and Papua Barat provinces of Indonesia), that I need to expose to the public in order to improve the quality and quantity of Papua Coffee Production. One is contextual, second technical and third financial challenges.  The first challenge is the context of socio-culture, modernization process, Papuan peoples and coffee business. The first challenge is the ethos of the Papuan peoples ourselves in doing business. We are the fist generations since modernization reached our villages in late 1960s. Most of us were born in stone-age era, when our parents did not know the calendar (date and year) we were born. But now within 20-30 years on, we are already in globalized and internet technology era. We did not know anything about money, let alone business. The only thing we knew was barter, I exchange what I have with another material that I value has equal or similar value.

Right now we are in a way “forced into this modern way of doing business”, which is totally new and challenging but most of the time it looks like a big problem for us.

We are facing so many things at once in one lifetime: we have to behave as modern religious person, we have to dress in modern way, sleep and eat in modern way, we have to learn how to read and write, we have to learn how to wear clothes and shoes/ sandals, we have to not only learn, but behave in a modern way. And in this particular case, we have to learn how to grow, and process coffee, and sell the coffee: how to promote, distribute, sell; how to get customers, and how to decide on price and bargains, and many others.

Coffee farmers grow and harvest coffee not purely because they need money. There is no money-oriented activities yet. They just plant, look after and harvest coffee because others are doing the same, because the coop is coming to buy them, not because they want to sell coffee for their own economic development. They virtually do not need money for daily lives.

The Coffee Business in West Papua officially started in 2007, marked by the establishment of the Baliem Arabica Cooperative in Wamena, West Papua’ s highlands capital. We just started the coffee plantation and processing, not the coffee business. Coffee business actually started from 2009, and we are still at the every early stage. We are still “baby” in business and in particular in coffee business. This is a challenge, the first challenge that we are facing, and we hope we will soon grow to become small child, teenage, and youth.

second challenge is due to government policy. Right now in West Papua, but also Indonesia in general, most of the government officials do business utilizing the government money. The government officials set up companies in their names of their wives or relatives, then they designate most of the government projects to the companies that they own themselves.

In Wamena, Deiyai, Gogiyai, Jayapura, at the Regency and Provincial level, it is very obvious. Everyone can see that government officers are businessmen / businesswomen themselves. They fly around Indonesia using public money, but they also fly coffee all over Indonesia, under their name, and sell them to customers outside West Papua.

Jhon Kwano as Promotion, Marketing and Sales Manager of the Cooperative who based in Jakarta have met a number of customers in Jakarta, at their cafes, and they confessed that they have met the “Bupati Kopi” (Coffee Regent) so and so. They suggested to Mr. Kwano that all the regents should focus on their public services, not using their position to do business. Kwano has no power, no channel, no interest in doing so.

Kwano says it is better the Regents turn into Coffee Regents rather than some officials in West Papua who use the money and build their palaces in their home-village. Many of the officers in West Papua come from outside West Papua. When they get positions in the government offices, then the first thing they think and they do is building their ‘palaces’ in their home-village, in their home-island, not in New Guinea.And it costs them billions of rupiahs to build just one.

Everyday we hear news broadcasts saying the government in Wset Papua have trillions of Indonesian rupiahs to build West Papua. They are proud of spending a lot of money for the western part of the New Guinea Island. But they do not know that actually the money goes back to Java, Sumatera, Sulawesi and Borneo, as most of the officers are from those islands, not from West Papua. West Papua has now become a “Money Transit Airport” for many Indonesian peoples.

The last and most disturbing challenge is the access to the sources of power and financial institutions/ facilities. All of the coffee farmers live in villages, most of us do not speak Indonesian language, several coffee farmers are illiterate. All coop staff members are farmers ourselves, none of us are interested in government and government offices.

Doing business in this modern era needs access to financial sources and power sources, but none of the farmers in West Papua are interested in them. Likewise, those financial institutions and government offices are also not interested in facilitating the local Papuan Coffee farmers to get access to the financial resources or access services delivered by the government offices. All farmers are left alone, plant coffee if they want to, and sell some if they want to, as they have traditionally been doing in villages. Government officials are also do their own things, including promoting and selling coffee by themselves. Whereas financial institutions always blame the Papuans for not fulfilling the requirement to be able to get loans from the bank.

The banks need ID Card, Driving License, Car Ownership Book, House and Land Certificate, all of these do not exist in the mind as well as in the real life of the coffee farmers. They have land, but no land certificate. They do not need cars. They do not have ID card, and if they wanted to then there is a line of procedures that they have to follow to get one, within some weeks, sometimes months.

What is expected ahead? I do not know what to say, but at least from this article you guys can guess what we should do, and what you can do to help in this coffee business in West Papua.



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