Australia imports 67,000 tonnes of coffee annually, and produces just 1,000 tonnes.
Because we do not have certain pests, we do not use as much pesticide, and ‘that means that our coffee contains lower levels of caffeine, which forms part of the plants’ natural defence against pests’, according to David Peasley, who has recently toured Columbia to select six varieties that would suit our local growers.
‘Columbia is the third largest coffee exporter in the world’, says David, ‘They hold approximately 1200 different varieties of coffee in their collection.’
Six new coffee varieties suited to subtropical growing conditions in Australia will be imported from Columbia and Brazil in a bid to stimulate the local industry.
Due to relatively high Australian labour costs, our coffee is machine-harvested. The large harvesters straddle a row of coffee plants and shake the ripe cherries free from the branches, using horizontal fibreglass fingers attached to two vertical posts that resemble a drive-through car wash. When plants grow too tall, they must be pruned to suit the machines, resulting in production loss every 9-10 years.
So he has selected for Australian trials some semi-dwarf varieties that don’t need pruning, as well as having high bean quality and drought and rust resistance.
However, there is a long timeframe in this sort of research; results of the Northern Rivers trial plantings, held in conjunction with Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) and Southern Cross Uni, will be available in five years. The chosen varieties will be grown out in quarantine facilities at SCU, and after passing quarantine requirements, the seedlings will be planted in a field trial in the Northern Rivers.