Vanuatu revives coffee industry four years post Cyclone Pam

By Talisa Kupenga

Vanuatu is reviving its coffee industry one batch at a time, four years after Cyclone Pam destroyed 90 percent of Tanna Island's coffee plantations, devastating the livelihoods of local farmers.

"Coffee is important to us because without coffee we cannot do anything," says coffee farmer Robert Koapa.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters ends this week’s Pacific Reset trip in Port Vila Vanuatu unsure whether or not he has tasted the Island nation's special brew.

"Well I don't know because they didn't tell me what the coffee origin was.  I just drank it like a grateful visitor should."

Cyclone Pam arrived in 2015, decimating 330,000 coffee plants and destroying the only source of income for 650 Tanna Island coffee farmers.

"There were more than 1,000 farmers on Tanna, but after Cyclone Pam the coffee dropped [among] many of them because the category 5 [cyclone] just put it out."

NZ is providing $5mil over five years (2016-2020) to support the beef sector and agri-food productivity, including small scale coffee support.

Koapa says, "Before Cyclone Pam [Tanna's Port Vila] factory exported about 80 tonne and after Cyclone Pam 15 tonne but last year we caught up to 70 tonne."

The restoration of Tanna Island's coffee production levels is testament to the resilience of the local coffee farmers.