Sales of Karen Coffee generating social impact
Once robusta coffee was introduced to Than Duang Gyi during British colonial times, it quickly became the main income crop. However, local farmers did not have the means to introduce their product to larger markets.
The Yangon-based Sabanan Company Ltd., which promotes and sells agricultural products from ethnic farmers, approached the local Karen people to develop Karen Coffee. Sabanan purchases coffee beans and ground coffee directly from the Karen farmers and an agricultural women’s group for a fair price, then sells it in larger markets in Myanmar.
Thirty percent of the net profit from Karen Coffee sales is sent back to Than Daung Gyi women’s groups to help run projects that promote women’s empowerment in the area. Karen Coffee will directly benefit more than 20,000 people from three Karen tribes who live in Than Daung Gyi and 20 neighbouring villages in Kayin State.
The high quality coffee is grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers, and a dry method that saves large amounts of water is used for processing. Khin Ohmmar Moe, the managing director and owner of Sabanan Company, thinks that these characteristics offer a promising future for exporting Karen Coffee.
On July 3–14, 2017, Moe participated in an IDRC-supported regional training program to promote women’s entrepreneurship for export business. Approximately 28 women from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam travelled to Thailand for the program led by the Mekong Institute. The two-week training covered six modules on entrepreneurship development, identifying business opportunities, global value chains, market intelligence, export market plans, and action plans.
With this background in the export business, the Sabanan Company will aim to sell Karen Coffee to regional and global markets, expanding not only their business, but also their social impact in Than Daung Gyi.