Do you prefer international beans to local? This decision could be costing the Australian industry, say growers

New research shows the demand for imported coffee beans is threatening the survival of local growers, particularly in Queensland.

According to the latest International Coffee Organisation figures, Australian growers have a yearly turnover of 20,000 tonnes of beans, while nearly five times that amount is being imported.

Kees Van Rijssen, a Mount Tamborine-based supplier says Queensland’s sub-tropical climate provides some of the best growing conditions for coffee, but importers and big roasters are monopolising the market.

If every café in the country supplied 25% Australia products, approximately 25,000 jobs could be created for our coffee industry,” says Rijssen.

“But it’s not happening, and it is a cost factor. Businesses are sourcing from the big-named brands, opening a cheaper sack of beans with a glossy picture on it, and Australian consumers are none-the-wiser.”

Van Rijssen says that our labour market plays a huge factor in the industry, and why roasters source their beans cheaply from places such as Brazil.

“Wages are really expensive, so businesses have had to become machine-operated, which can impact the quality of the bean, and the final cost of the product.”

Dawn Juds, grower at Mount Mee Coffee, says that although Australian coffee is more expensive, she believes it is a superior product.

“As a rule, Australian coffee beans are not sprayed with chemicals, as there are no pests that attack the crops in Queensland, and we use organic fertilisers on our farm” says Juds.

“The climate here in south east Queensland is perfect for growing coffee, we normally have ample rain and a slightly cooler climate than growers in north QLD. (But) lack of rain this season is a problem for us and the trees are a bit stressed.  ”

Van Rijssen says that the government doesn’t have the biggest part to play in the industry’s struggles.

“The government can’t be expected to fork out money to struggling industries like ours –there’s drought stricken farmers across the country. Instead it’s an individual thing; it’s really up to consumers.”

“Australians are becoming more aware, just like with their wine, but we all need to be proactive in looking for the signs,

“If you go to a café that advertises a brand’s coffee, for that $3-4 priced cup, you are also paying for the extras such as their marketing, when that money could be supporting local growers instead.”

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