Prospects For Vanilla Agribusiness Development In Ermera And Manufahi, Timor Leste

Type Conference Paper - 2009 AARES Conference Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Title Prospects For Vanilla Agribusiness Development In Ermera And Manufahi, Timor Leste
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2009
URL 2.pdf
The economy of Timor Leste is largely dependent on the agriculture sector which makes up about
one third of the nation’s GDP. Around 80 per cent of the population of Timor Leste is engaged in
agriculture related work. It is therefore necessary that serious attention be given to this sector,
including the export commodity, coffee, and other crops with export potential such as vanilla,
cacao, as a means of accelerating agricultural development especially in rural areas.
From the time of the Portuguese, through the Indonesian occupation, and up to the present, coffee
has been Timor Leste’s main export. In fact, about 90 per cent of the country’s export revenue is
derived from coffee. Between 1987 and 1990, coffee exports have contributed some US$12.5
million to the country’s foreign exchange earnings (Costa & Saldanha 1999).
The fluctuation in the price of coffee in the world market affects the incomes of the Timorese coffee
farmers and this impact is becoming more severe. Coffee production in Timor Lester is based on a
relatively unmanaged system with little attention given to plantation management and to pest and
weed control (Amaral 2001). In addition, the common shade tree Paraserianthes falcataria has
been infected by gall rust (Cristovao 2001) which is now common over all production areas with
consequent impact on the quantity and quality of coffee production. In an effort to lessen the
dependency of Timor Leste on coffee as its main export and to reduce risk to farmers’ income due
to their dependency on coffee as their main source of income, the government and some
international NGOs have introduced vanilla to the nation’s 13 districts. A preliminary survey
conducted by the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA) in these districts has shown
that, aside from the local farmers’ interest in growing this commodity, the soil type and climate are
suitable for growing vanilla. The CCT Report of 2005 had revealed that during the year, 28 farmer
groups (with a total of 877 members) have already started to grow vanilla. Furthermore, the total
area planted to it had already reached 224 hectares while planting had spread to ten (10) districts. In
addition, the total export of vanilla likewise increased. For instance, total vanilla exports went up
from 750 kilograms in 2002 to 1500 kilograms in 2004 (CCT 2005a). The growth of vanilla
production in Timor Leste from 1989 – 1991 and from 2002 – 2004 is shown in Table 1.

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