Nestle SA, the world’s biggest coffee maker, is distributing disease-resistant plants to farmers in Ivory Coast to help the country increase production of the robusta variety by 40 percent in six years.
Ivory Coast produces about 100,000 metric tons a year of robusta, used to make instant coffee and espresso, and Nestle’s initiative would boost that to 140,000 tons, said Patricio Astolfi, general director of the company’s unit in the country.
Robusta prices rose 17 percent on NYSE Liffe in London this year. Prices for arabica, used by specialty companies such as Starbucks Corp., advanced 53 percent on ICE Futures U.S. in New York on speculation drought would damage plants in top-grower Brazil. Coffee merchant Volcafe Ltd. estimated a global supply shortfall of 11.3 million bags, with a crop of 140.2 million bags in 2014-15.
“The production of coffee has been neglected, so most of the plants are quite old,” Astolfi said in a June 6 interview, referring to Ivorian output.
The disease-resistant plants Nestle is introducing can grow beans in two to three years with a yield of at least 1 ton per hectare (2.47 acres), Adolphe Yapo Yapi, manager of the company’s Ivory Coast initiative, said in the western town of Gagnoa. That compares with five to seven years on the plants normally used there, which have a yield of 0.3 ton per hectare.
Nestle will distribute more than 2 million plants to farmers this year, Astolfi said in Abidjan.
Ivory Coast production hasn’t recovered since 2003, when it fell to 110,000 tons because of armed conflict and low prices. It peaked at 324,000 tons in 1998, according to the Agriculture Ministry’s website.
Ivory Coast is the sixth-biggest grower of robusta and is expected to produce 1.9 million bags in 2013-14, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A bag of coffee weighs 60 kilograms (132 pounds). The top grower is Vietnam, followed by Brazil, Indonesia, India and Uganda.