Ecuador coffee eyes China

Updated: 2015-06-25 04:04

By Li Jing in Beijing(China Daily Latin America)

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Ecuador coffee eyes China

Pro Ecuador is promoting Ecuadorian coff ee in China in order to open up the market. [PHOTOS PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY]

Ecuador is looking at China's growing interest in coffee and betting on the high quality of its coffee to open up the Chinese market.

On June 10, Pro Ecuador, the official institution charged with promoting exports and investments, held a road show in Beijing to push Ecuadorean coffee and the country's coffee industry.

Coffee has a long history in Ecuador. It was introduced in the early 19th Century and became its main export in the early 20th Century. According to Pro Ecuador, About 100,000 households in the South American country depend on coffee for their livelihood. In 2012 the export volume of Ecuadorean coffee reached 51,546 metric tons. Half of its coffee was exported to Colombia, another coffee-producing nation, and the US.

Although Ecuador is a small coffee-producing country, it is one of only 15 countries in the world that grows and exports both Arabica and Robusta coffee, the two main types of coffee produced and consumed in the world.

"Like other nearby coffee-growing nations, Ecuador has ideal altitudes and climate for coffee, and a lot of old heirloom Typica variety trees," said Andres Armas, a representative in the commercial section of the Ecuador Embassy in Beijing.

But he said so far there is no Chinese company investing in the industry in Ecuador and few in China are importing Ecuadorean coffee.

"Coffee exporting from Ecuador to China is minimal. In 2013, it reached 229 kilograms, which is nothing in comparison to 9 million metric tons from Vietnam, the biggest exporter in the market. In 2014, Chinese didn't import any coffee according to the statistics from customs," he said. "We are here trying to open up the Chinese market and welcome Chinese to come to invest in Ecuador."

The institution has invited Chinese companies, one from Beijing and one from Shanghai this year to visit coffee plantation in Ecuador.

"The two cities, Beijing and Shanghai, are our target markets," he added.

Countries want to tap the Chinese market because China, where tea reigns supreme, is forming a huge coffee consumer market, boosting a rapid growth of coffee consumption.

According to the China Coffee Association Beijing, China's coffee consumption is growing by 15 percent every year, compared to 2 percent globally, seven times faster than the global average.

Although coffee is still far from mainstream and is enjoyed by a select few in China, the rapid growth of the China's economy, the diversity in drinks and favor for Western-style living, contribute to the expansion. China is becoming increasingly important in the world coffee market.

However, Ecuadorean officials believe most Chinese lack awareness about Ecuador.

Diego Felipe Mejía Luna, the 2014 Ecuador barista champion, who showcased coffee drinks made from Ecuadorean coffee beans during the road show, said when presented to Chinese, few know anything about the coffee.

"Ecuador coffee is balanced, bright, and has a clean taste overall," he said. "The barista industry is relatively new in Ecuador, but we are working hard to make our coffee meet the taste of Chinese consumers."

He will attend a global barista championship held in Fushan town in Hainan province later this month, which he sees as a good opportunity to promote coffee from his homeland.

"My life mission is to promote Ecuadorean coffee around the world."

Today, bananas and shrimps are the top exports from Ecuador to China, according to Pro Ecuador. Chen Mu, the product manager from Beijing Youpinyuedong trade, the biggest agent of Ecuadorean shrimp in China, said her company is planning to import coffee from the country this year.

"Ecuadorean food products always enjoy a high popularity for its high quality, which is organic and healthy, thanks to the country's good environment and manufacturing process."

Jose Maria Borja, Ecuador's ambassador to China, said he hopes his country can attract more Chinese and trade and investment from China.

"A direct flight from Quito, the capital, to Beijing is expected to start soon and it will strengthen the bilateral ties between China and Ecuador," he said.

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