Sihereni – PNG’S model coffee plantation rehabilitation by James Kila
DAVID OROMARIE is quite a satisfied man. His self-styled initiatives in coffee plantation rehabilitation and quality control are achieving recognition within the coffee industry.
This muscular built person who initially wanted to become an army officer has no regret that his fall-back position to the land is somewhat reaping rewards.
To date Mr Oromarie has made remarkable inroads in a major coffee rehabilitation, evidently bringing to life a once run-down plantation to a respectable status. News of his achievement has even reached wider circles of the coffee industry.
Late last year the European Union Head of Delegation, Anthony Crasner on a visit to the Eastern Highlands traveled by road to take a glimpse of that project.
“Since coming to the Highlands of this country I’ve seen no remarkable coffee project as well rehabilitated and well looked after then this project,” remarked Mr Crasner.
Notably, in just over two years Sihereni coffee has won the hearts many reputable coffee exporters with its superb coffee parchment, which are selling at double and triple “A” grade, in fact a remarkable achievement in just a short space of time.
The Sihereni washed Arabica Coffee is grown and processed at an altitude of 1,270-meters above the sea level in an area rich in wildlife and natural beauty at a location 45-minutes drive north-west of the provincial capital of Eastern Highlands, in Papua New Guinea.
Initially coffee development in the area took place in 1950s as an agricultural state lease by an expatriate colonial administrator Ian Downs alongside other expatriates prospecting for gold.
The 38-hectare coffee development was sold down on a number of occasions to different owners until finally Sihereni purchased it off from its last owner Angco Limited at a market value of K30,000 (equivalent to $US 7,410 Exchange rate 0.2470.
After Angco Limited had retrieved all developments since 1991 the entire plantation was covered in bush and self-seeded shrubs leaving the coffee life of no economic value, the landowners collectively got their acts together effecting the following coffee rehabilitation packages:
Fencing, Weed Control, Drainage, Prunning and Shade Control
Having accomplished the above features Sihereni Coffee Project sets its goal to being a model plantation whereby all coffee agronomy and husbandry be taught with the aid of the Coffee Industry Corporation Ltd to all interested coffee growers regardless of size.
In fact, through Mr Oromarie’s tireless effort and commitment he was able to instigate a major coffee rehabilitation undertaken by the local landowners to bring the plantation to a respectable status.
From Sihereni estate’s vantage point high up in the hills one look down onto the Okuk Highway (Highlands Highway) as it meanders through the west into Daulo Pass on its way to Simbu, Western Highlands and the mineral resource provinces of Southern Highlands and Enga provinces.
DAVID OROMARIE is quite a satisfied man :
Coffee has been cultivated under sprawling arms of the albizzia (traditionally called Malo trees) with other varieties of environmental suitable shade trees that extract moisture from the soil.
“Quality control is the basis of our operation. Quality Control standards have been established and are made sure they are maintained at all times,” said Mr Oromarie.
At harvest time which is normally twice a year, a picking team from neighboring local villages numbers ranging from 50 to 150 swarm in and selectively hand-pick only the red ripe cherries are pulped the same day and left overnight in clean vets for fermentation. The wet parchment is then washed with plenty of fresh running water and dried on drying beds under the scorching equatorial sun.
Taking time out for a beer :
The fine Sihereni washed arabica coffee is the result of pristine environmental condition and the devotion of true Sihereni effort.
Tests are still being carried out to determine the best solutions to produce the best quality beans to meet the finest cup – taste requirements.
Sihereni enjoys the one touch in real life, and that is frequently contributing in cash and kind to schools and church organizations respectively because of our subsistent dominant lifestyle on occasional social functions, advises to turning back to sustainable industries – the agricultural sector where coffee plays a prominent role in the cash economy.
Sihereni Coffee Project has been recognized by the international financial institution - Asian Development Bank (ADB) as a service provider, funds at a sum of K43,000 was provided in August 2000 to run a two-week long course to the benefit of thirty (30) blocks and plantation managers from Goroka and Daulo districts of Eastern Highlands.
An on-going two-hour per day per week has also been initiated for the unfortunate growers free-of-charge, unfortunately cost for teaching materials has been a burden thereby forcing that to a stop, until funds are secured.
Sihereni Coffee Project like any other agricultural based organization has short and long-term plans or vision.
With the exceptional quality washed arabica Sihereni is producing, it is our uttermost wish that this coffee is traded on gourmet or specialty market where we can fetch a premium price such at those offered by Fair Trade or Starbucks organizations respectively.
“Through our training programs for local coffee growers we hope to have taught and spread the idea of producing quality coffee for trading. Once we have mastered that principle, we will have expanded our supply-base and maintain consistency,” Mr Oromarie said.
“It is only a matter of time until Sihereni fulfills this dream.
Mr Oromarie said Sihereni’s ambition is to see local farmers have a bite into the price support that will eventually improve their living standard.
“We are mindful of the fact that the country is struggling for economic survival in particular within our coffee industry, the low coffee prices, high production costs, the decline in premium quality coffee for export, example “A” and “X” Grades at less than 10 % i.e., 6% and 8% respectively.
(Refer to Exports by grades in 2001 – CIC Export Records)
Sihereni Coffee has taken its first step forward in investing all available resources towards promoting quality in this sustainable resource – coffee, in order to survive in current low price commodity.
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