China's Coffee Industry: Yunnan sees opportunities after deal on geographical indications with EU


China is one of the world's fastest-growing consumers of coffee. And it's also been looking at expanding its role as a supplier. After a deal between China and the European Union this year, the southwest Yunnan Province has been seeing more opportunities for its most famous produce – coffee beans. Yang Jinghao tells us more.

Coffee growers in southwest China's Baoshan City are in harvest mode. These small fruits are expected to bring in a handsome income, as a major festival approaches.

DUAN HUIYUAN Coffee Farmer "The prices vary based on the beans' quality. We first peel off the cherries, then dry the beans before they hit the market. The beans can be sold at a minimum of 22 yuan per kilo."

Sitting at the foot of the massive Gaoligong Mountains, a large part of Baoshan boasts a special terrain and climate similar to that of the Blue Mountains in Jamaica – home to one of the most sought-after coffee types in the world. These factors make Baoshan ideal for growing high-quality Arabica coffee.

In past two years, local farmers cultivated some 44,000 tons of coffee beans, many of which were for export.

YANG JINGHAO Baoshan, Yunnan Province "Baoshan's coffee industry saw greater promise, after China and the European Union reached a deal on geographical indications in March. It's an agreement that gives protection to around 200 iconic European and Chinese products."

Li Xiaobo has long been engaged in the coffee trade, with most of his beans sent to European countries like Germany.

As the head of Yunnan's coffee association, he says the inclusion of the Baoshan Arabica coffee in the China-EU deal is a boost for the whole industry.

LI XIAOBO Head, Coffee Association of Yunnan "This means that our products are of high quality and good taste, which are widely accepted by consumers. The agreement will enhance our bargaining power in the long run. And I believe the government will introduce some new support policies."

Due to the COVID pandemic, however, exports of Baoshan coffee have significantly dropped. But officials say they remain confident and are working toward a long-term goal.

LI ZHENGYAO Deputy Head, Baoshan Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Affairs "Next, we'll push for the development of the whole industry chain. For this, we'll build a centralized processing center for coffee cherries and several coffee manors. We aim to increase the proportion of specialty coffee to more than 80 percent."

Some manufacturers are also expecting a transformation in product structure.

LI XIAOBO Head, Coffee Association of Yunnan "I believe exports will recover, and I hope what we'll provide to the global market are not just raw beans, but high-value-add products like cold brew and freeze-dried coffee."

Li Xiaobo also says that, besides policy and financial support, talent cultivation would also be crucial to the industry's sustainable development. Yang Jinghao, CGTN, Baoshan, Yunnan Province.

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