Journey of coffee in indonesia

Organic Specialty Coffee of Indonesia

Published: December 07, 2023 09:10 AM

Written by: Admin

Arabica coffee has been grown for more than a century by the Gayo farmers, an indigenous Acehnese community living in the valleys of the Gayo Mountain Range in the Indonesian Special Province of Aceh, which is located near the northwest tip of Sumatera Island.  The Central Aceh District's hilly core, known as the "Gayo Highlands," is primarily located between 700 and 2500 meters above sea level.  The Central Aceh District, which is further subdivided into eight administrative sub-districts, has Takengon as its administrative capital. Significant coffee-producing zones are noted as being in Bandar, Bukit, Timang Gajah, Silih Nara, Bebesen, Pegasing, Bintang, and Linge sub-districts. 68,800 hectares of the Central Aceh District's land were used for coffee cultivation in 1989; the majority of them were small, family-run plantations or plots. 


The Dutch Colonial Regime built Aceh's first coffee plantations in the late eighteenth century. Many of these former colonial farms were taken over by the Gayo farmers shortly after Indonesia gained its independence in 1949, and they have remained run traditionally ever since. Before the mid-1980s, the Gayo Highlands could have been deemed 100% organic because all coffee produced there was grown without the use of any chemicals, making it an extremely fertile producing zone.

The widespread practice of government control did not start to impair coffee production in Central Aceh until the early to mid-1980s, when the Soeharto Regime cemented its dominance over the whole Indonesian archipelago. A virtual marketing monopoly was provided to the son-in-law of the acting Governor of Aceh Special Province during this period. His company was awarded a special license that allowed it to market and distribute chemical herbicides to agricultural growers in Aceh Special Province. From then on, it was declared that the heavy use of chemical pesticides in Aceh's coffee farms was just "a simple solution to control bothersome and unexpected weed growth."

Luckily, it is estimated that fewer than 10% of the total area planted to Arabica coffee currently uses herbicides with such a chemical foundation. In the interest of accuracy, a fresh "herbicide and pesticide use field survey" is suggested here, as it was common for the corrupt government bureaucracy to fabricate field data in the recent past (under the Soeharto Regime).

Manufacturing and varieties

While the average Gayonese mountain farmer has fewer than two hectares of land, some family-run coffee plantations in Central Aceh span up to fifteen hectares. The prolonged political and economic issues in the country have directly led to a large number of jobless Indonesians, increased daily living expenses, and a lack of fresh work prospects. For the ethnic Gayo farmers in Central Aceh's Gayo Highlands, the depreciation of the Indonesian Rupiah has actually been a godsend. The principal export good produced in the Central Aceh District is arabica coffee, which is valued and sold in US dollars (USD). As a result, an efficient "monetary buffer" has been created, providing Gayo farmers with much higher actual income levels (particularly in comparison to the present national average).

Most coffee growers in Gayo continue to manage their small plantations and coffee plots in a very traditional manner, which entails no use of chemicals. Their sole source of fertilizer is the skins from ripe coffee beans and the decomposing garbage that accumulates after the annual harvest, which takes place between October and February. The physical removal of this specific waste material, or agricultural output, is becoming a major problem throughout the Gayo Highland Region because there is no governmental effort for collection, composting, or disposal.

It is now normal for a land area that was once able to support 5000 coffee plants to only have as few as 1500 productive trees since waste materials continue to absorb much too much production space! The issue of low land-to-tree productivity ratio is exacerbated by the fact that the majority of the area's older coffee plantations have not yet been replaced with more productive, modern types of coffee plants. Due to the latter disadvantage, the total output capacity has decreased even more; this is especially true for the more established and older coffee estates that date back to the colonial era and are situated in and around the town of Takengon. Just 50,000 MT of Arabica coffee are currently produced annually in the Gayo Highlands from a total land area of 68,000 hectares, which is far from optimum.

Currently, the most widely planted hybrid coffee type among Central Acehnese Gayo growers is called Catimor; it is the result of a cross between the Red Caturra and Hibrido de Timor varietals. The famed trait of Hibrido de Timor is its ability to withstand leaf rust, an illness that ravaged the majority of Indonesia's colonial coffee estates in the early 1900s. The main disadvantage of the Hibrido de Timor cultivar is its low yields and unusually tall growth, which makes harvesting it challenging. On the other hand, the red type of Caturra produces a remarkably large yield while growing on smaller, shorter trees. As a result, the union of these two kinds provides local farmers in Gayo with a high-yield, low-maintenance coffee tree variety.

In Indonesia, there are many varieties of the Catimor hybrid. Although several of these hybrids were created in East Javan government-run coffee research facilities, Takengon does not really like them. The most widely produced kind of Catimor in the Central Aceh District's Gayo Highlands is known as Catimor Jaluk; it is a naturally occurring hybrid variety that came from a nearby Gayo Higland plantation. This hybrid, which is a cross between Red Caturra and Hibrido de Timor, thrives in the highlands of Gayo. Nowadays, the Catimor Jaluk hybrid variety is planted on nearly all recently created or replanted coffee estates in the area.

As of right now, the majority of the Arabica coffee grown in Central Aceh District's Gayo Highland Region is still sold under names that are similar to the names of nearby villages and districts in North Sumatera Province, such as Mandheling, Pawani, Sidikalang, Gunung Lintong, etc., as though it came from one of the province's smaller, less important coffee-producing regions. Such advertising strategies are utterly deceptive. All of the main ethnic Chinese Indonesian coffee traders situated in Sumatera were urged to run their operations from the city of Medan (the capital of neighboring North Sumatera Province) when the Soeharto Regime closed down every seaport in Aceh during the 1980s. The worldwide coffee market was essentially cut off from the native Acehnese growers in the Gayo Highlands by these extreme legislative measures, creating a virtual supply monopoly for the middlemen located in Medan.


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