Count­ing on cof­fee for a strong boost in growth

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - News - OC­TO­BER 19, 2018 THIHA KO KO thi­hakoko@mm­ BUSI­NESS 8 BUSI­NESS 11

THE founder of the Ge­nius Cof­fee busi­ness U Ngwe Tun feels there is good po­ten­tial for the com­pany’s prod­ucts in lo­cal and for­eign mar­kets.

While the busi­ness is fo­cused on grow­ing, pro­cess­ing and dis­tribut­ing cof­fee beans, U Ngwe Tun is keen on in­ject­ing a dose of in­no­va­tion into the com­pany.

He says he is look­ing into mak­ing cof­fee wine from cof­fee by-prod­ucts.

“Many cof­fee busi­nesses just sell cof­fee beans but dis­card the husks. I am go­ing to ex­per­i­ment with fer­ment­ing raw cof­fee husks and mak­ing wine,” he said.

The com­pany is al­ready turn­ing the pulp of the cof­fee fruit that sur­rounds the ac­tual cof­fee bean, which pre­vi­ously used to be dis­carded in pro­cess­ing, into what it calls cof­fee cherry.

This by-prod­uct is said to be rich in anti-ox­i­dants. “The cof­fee cherry made from dried cof­fee husks are ex­ported to Ja­pan for US$4 (K6300) per kilo. Tra­di­tion­ally, only cof­fee beans were prized and ev­ery­thing around the bean was dis­carded, but now cof­fee husks are used also. This is bet­ter for the en­vi­ron­ment and also pro­vides a new rev­enue stream for cof­fee grow­ers,” said U Ngwe Tun.

While tra­di­tional cof­fee prod­ucts such as ground cof­fee, cof­fee pow­der and canned cof­fee re­main the com­pany’s main in­come earn­ers, Ge­nius Cof­fee is ex­plor­ing in­no­va­tions like cof­fee cherry and peaberry cof­fee.

Set up in 2012, the com­pany started with pro­cess­ing and roast­ing cof­fee beans. Since then it has ex­panded into cul­ti­va­tion and has sev­eral hectares of plan­ta­tions near Ywar Ngan Town­ship in Shan State. By 2014, the com­pany had grown enough to tap into the ris­ing num­ber of tourists ar­riv­ing in the coun­try around then by pro­vid­ing vis­i­tors from around the world with a taste of true Myan­mar cof­fee.

In Myan­mar, Ge­nius Cof­fee prod­ucts, such as Ge­nius Cer­ti­fied Or­ganic Cof­fee, Ge­nius Shan High­land Cof­fee, Tr­ishaw Cof­fee and Ozi (Burmese drum) Cof­fee, can be found in shop­ping cen­tres, super­mar­kets and con­ve­nience stores.

The com­pany also ex­ports raw cof­fee beans to Ja­pan, Hong Kong, Tai­wan, the US, Ger­many, Nor­way, China and Sin­ga­pore, while Ge­nius Cof­fee branded prod­ucts are ex­ported to Thai­land, Cam­bo­dia and Canada. It is also look­ing to open branches in Cam­bo­dia and Canada.

Not con­tent with build­ing a bur­geon­ing cof­fee busi­ness and ex­per­i­ment­ing with new prod­ucts U Ngwe Tun also cre­ated a new model for pur­chas­ing raw cof­fee.

“In ad­di­tion to pur­chas­ing raw cof­fee from traders, I also set up a ‘change-agent’ model. I couldn’t tell each in­di­vid­ual farmer what kind of qual­ity I needed so I picked one leader and ed­u­cated him about my needs. This leader then teaches oth­ers around him the tech­niques.

“Farm­ers are friendly with each other. If a com­pany shows up just to buy cof­fee then it’s all busi­ness and this makes it harder to build re­la­tion­ships. How­ever, if one of the change agents is seen to be ben­e­fit­ting from a re­la­tion­ship with us, then other lo­cals will fol­low his lead. In this way, the lo­cals ben­e­fit and we get the qual­ity of beans we need,” U Ngwe Tun said.

In ad­di­tion to grow­ing, procur­ing and dis­tribut­ing cof­fee from Ywa Ngan, the com­pany has am­bi­tious plans to grow cof­fee in Kayah State with a tar­get of con­tract farm­ing in co­op­er­a­tion with lo­cals on 20,000 hectares by 2025. The project will in­clude seedling as­sis­tance, soil prepa­ra­tion, tech­nol­ogy in­put, pur­chas­ing agree­ments with farm­ers and mar­ket de­vel­op­ment to find for­eign buy­ers..

“There is lo­cal as well as in­ter­na­tional de­mand for cof­fee. The sit­u­a­tion is such that the mar­ket can ab­sorb all that can be pro­duced,” he said.

“It would be won­der­ful have a fa­mous Myan­mar brand cof­fee. South Korea is known for kim­chi and Thai­land for Tom Yum; I wish to do the same with Myan­mar’s cof­fee,” said U Ngwe Tun.

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