Vietnamese coffee history, the first coffee tree was brought to Vietnam by the French in 1857. From these second-largest plantations in Indochina, the coffee tree has made a decisive turn, escaping from subsidized institutions and becoming one of the crops with the highest export value (after rice).
Coffee puts Vietnam in the 2nd position on the world coffee map. This article summarizes significant milestones from when coffee trees were present to the renovation period.
The start of Coffee in Vietnam
Vietnamese coffee history, Arabica (Coffea arabica) was the first coffee variety introduced into Vietnam in 1857 through French missionaries. It has been tested in Catholic churches in northern provinces, such as Ninh Binh, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, and Ha Tinh, and then spread to several central areas, such as Quang Tri and Quang Binh. Eventually, people brought Coffee to the southern provinces of the Central Highlands and The Southeast. People later discovered that the Central Highlands was the most suitable place to grow Coffee.
Then, in 1908, the French brought two other types of Coffee to Vietnam: Robusta (Coffea canephora) and Exelsa (Coffea excels). Not stopping, the French experimented with various varieties from the Congo in the Central Highlands and witnessed the excellent development of Coffee in this region.
By 1986, many coffee-producing areas had grown throughout the war but slowly yielded low. In 1986, the country’s total size devoted to coffee production was only about 50,000 hectares, and the production volume was 18,400 tons (just over 300,000 bags of 60 kg).
In coffee plantations in the early 20th century, all three types of coffee were planted, Arabica coffee with Typica, Canephora coffee with Robusta, and Liberica coffee with Excelsa. In 1930 in Vietnam, there were 5900 hectares of coffee, including 4700 hectares of Arabica coffee, 900 hectares of Excelsa coffee, and 300 hectares of Robusta coffee.
Over the years of coffee cultivation, the results showed that the coffee tree tea (Arabica) did not give the desired results because it was vulnerable to attack by worm stems (xylotrechus quadriceps)and rusted mushrooms (Hemileia vastatrix)infestation. Robusta coffee does not grow well in the North due to winter temperatures being too low for the ecological requirements of this plant. Only jackfruit coffee (Excelsa) grows well gives good productivity, but the commercial value is low. And at that time, some foreign experts recommended not growing Arabica coffee in Vietnam and only Coffee in the south and jackfruit coffee in the North (Chatot – coffee tree in Indochina -1940).
During the 1960s and 1970s in Northern Vietnam, a series of state-of-the-art farms were established, including dozens of coffee farms, and all three types of tea, tea, and jackfruit were planted. The development of Coffee in these years was also not very positive, and by the early 1970s, people concluded that Coffee could not be grown in the North.
Reforms and a jump in output
After the war’s end in 1975, the country was on a near-economic- socio-political decline. Economic policies copied from the Soviet Union were no longer in line with the country’s internal situation.
For example, the collective agricultural model proved ineffective, so in 1986 the Party and state made a “U-turn” (reform) – as a big bet, and the coffee tree was five of them simultaneously.
Until 1975 the country across the two north and south had only about 13,000 hectares with an output of about 6000 tons. And also after 1975, Vietnam’s coffee industry has entered a period of strong development – Doan Trieu Nhan
In 1980 a coffee development program in Vietnam developed by the cocoa coffee company under the Ministry of Agriculture and The Food Industry was submitted to the Standing Committee of the Council of Ministers and allowed to implement.
That was followed by a series of coffee production cooperation agreements signed between the Government of Vietnam and the Soviet Union (planting 20,000 hectares of Coffee), the Democratic Republic of Germany (10,000 hectares), Bulgaria (5,000 hectares), Czechoslovakia (5000 hectares) and Poland (5000 hectares) – According to The Zhao Tern Delegation, VICOFA.
In 1982, the Union of Vietnamese Coffee Enterprises (LH-XN-CPVN) was established under Decree 174 of the Council of Ministers with three military divisions and some companies under the Ministry of Agriculture and dak Lak, Gia Lai – Kon Tum localities.
The coffee development program is expanded across the Central highlands and southeast provinces. The type of Coffee chosen to develop the area is Robusta coffee, a coffee variety that prefers hot and humid climates and is less harmful to rust.
Turning Point 1986
Vietnamese coffee history in 1986, LH-XN-CPVN was supported by the Ministries of Industry, Planning, Finance, Foreign Trade,… Organized a coffee development conference in farmers’ households in the Central Highlands, Central and Southeastern coast provinces, called the First People’s Coffee Conference.
Along with the new policy and the strong stimulus of coffee prices in the international market rising at that time, Vietnam’s coffee industry proliferated (See also Vietnam Coffee – a three-decade journey)
Since 1986, the Government of Vietnam has focused its investment resources in the coffee sector, aiming to transform coffee into an important agricultural sector. In addition to state farms, the government also encourages individual households to grow coffee. Therefore, coffee production in Vietnam has exploded in terms of area, output and export value.
It was not until the late 1980s that Vietnam’s coffee industry introduced the Catimor variety of Arabica coffee. Since then, Arabica coffee has been cultivated in Vietnam with rust-resistant varieties. It is also the basis for Vietnam Coffee Corporation to develop a program to establish Arabica coffee in Vietnam.
Vietnamese coffee production and Vietnamese coffee beans, after more than a century.
In the late 1990s, Vietnam became the leading coffee producer in Southeast Asia and the second green coffee producer and exporter globally after Brazil. However, production is mainly focused on Robusta seeds. While Robusta accounts for 92.9% of the total Coffee growing area, Arabica varieties are responsible for only a few percent – no more than 5% of Vietnam’s total production.
Coffee production steadily increased by 20%-30% per year in the 1990s, with small coffee gardens planted on half a million plots of land (from two to three acres). That has helped to turn the economy around drastically. Take a typical figure in 1994, the country had about 60% of people living below the poverty line, and now this figure is less than 10%, and indeed, this achievement cannot ignore the contribution that coffee trees bring.
In the reform process, the coffee industry has been nationalized, thriving in the Central Highlands provinces, and private enterprises are replicated, leading to a sudden development of the coffee processing industry. The cooperation between growers, producers, and the state has built the finished coffee brand and exported retail products—Trung Nguyen coffee in 1996 and Highlands Coffee in 1998.
In 30 years (from 1986 to 2016), coffee production in Vietnam has increased nearly 100-fold, from 18,400 tons in 1986 to 900,000 tons in 2000 and reached 1.76 million tons in 2016; Between 90% and 95% of output is exported annually. According to the ICO
In recent years, departments and the state have sought to improve the quality of coffee exports, including the expansion of Arabica coffee production areas – today mainly grown in northern provinces such as Quang Tri (Quang Tri) and Son La. However, Coffee’s most critical place is still the Central Highlands (Dak Lak, Kon Tum, and Lam Dong).
The Central Highlands has led Robusta coffee production in both area and output. It is famous in Vietnam and around the world with some geographical indications such as ‘Buon Ma Thuot,’ Cau Dat – Da lat,.. known for its strong taste due to the properties of the soil.
“Healthy fruits, sweet fruits” of Vietnam’s coffee industry
With an average of about 2.3 tons per hectare, Vietnam’s coffee yield is significantly higher than any other coffee-producing country in the world. Vietnam has created a unique brand of “Robusta high intensity” cultivation. The “perch” plant yields more seeds per hectare than Arabica, which allows Vietnam to become the most productive coffee-producing country.
The key to Vietnamese coffee’s success is focusing on robusta varieties. Robusta has a lower price than its brother Arabica. However, Robusta is much easier to grow because of lower production costs than Arabica and resistance to many pests affecting Arabica.
In addition, fertilizers and water inputs can vary to affect productivity without affecting the health of the plant, while the health of arabica plants can be significantly damaged by drastic changes in inputs, according to the ICO.
However, the statistics of millions of tons of Vietnamese coffee culture exported each year cannot compensate for the quality defect when production is focused on Robusta varieties, with the potential of inferior quality arabica, and mainly for export as raw Coffee unprocessed. You can follow more article opportunities for Robusta specialty coffee to understand this issue better.