Blue Mountain Coffee Day attracts global attentionWednesday, January 13, 2021
SATURDAY'S celebration of Jamaica Blue Mountain (JBM) Coffee Day highlighted the end of a week-long celebration of one of Jamaica's most globally distinguishable beverages.
It was the third anniversary of the event, which received the governor general's proclamation three years ago, and has rolled over into an annual exposition of consumption ever since.
But, this year's celebrations were particularly important to the industry's efforts to find markets for some 750,000 pounds of the product still holed up because of the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the damage to this year's crop from excessive flooding triggered by an increased number of by-passing storms dumping excessive rainfall.
In order to meet the disposal challenge, the industry has joined with the main agency responsible for the event, the Jamaica Coffee Exporters Association (JCEA), headed by president Norman Grant, to launch a promotion seeking to increase the amount of coffee consumed annually by Jamaicans, as well as offering tourists special promotions.
And to impress upon the the importance of the event, Prime Minister Andrew Holness brought up the issue in an interview with Bloomberg TV host Tim Stenovec, on Friday, giving it a massive North American boost.
“We discussed wide-ranging issues, including Jamaica Coffee Day which highlights our world famous Blue Mountain Coffee,” Holness said in a tweet, after which he was seen drinking a cup of coffee.
“It's a really smooth coffee. I am not a connoisseur, but I do have coffee from time to time,” he told Stenovec, after promising a gift package of the local blend as an introduction to the product for the host and his colleagues.
The prime minister also noted that about 70 per cent of Jamaica's coffee is exported to Japan, where the idea of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Day originated and was accepted by its Parliament, as an incentive for local producers to increase their production.
A greeting from the Japanese importers encouraged local coffee farmers not to lose faith in the product during the current COVID-19 crisis.
“We will get through this pandemic, and we will get through it successfully. The king of coffee will maintain its throne on the pallet of every consumer,” the importers' association greeting read.
Leader of the Opposition Mark Golding commended the collaborative efforts to protect and develop the industry, and endorsed the JCEA's strategy of seeking to guarantee the highest quality and maintaining consistent supply and sustainable prices for the product around the world.
Jamaica's ambassador to Japan, Shorna-Kay M Richards, noted that throughout the years, the Jamaican coffee industry has benefited from the loyal support of the Association of Japanese Importers of Jamaica Coffee (AJIJC), which has endorsed the JBM brand and demonstrated its significance to the Japanese market.
She assured the industry that it is her intention to leverage coffee's legacy in the coming year and beyond, to create even more gateways for increased engagement with the Japanese market.
She said that these engagements create potential opportunities for increased growth and development of the coffee industry, and Jamaica's wider agricultural sector.
Grant said that this third celebration will intensify the JCEA's efforts and marketing strategy to preserve and grow existing markets, find new markets, globally, and launch a local campaign to create a coffee drinking culture in Jamaica.
He said that this would be done against the background of recent surveys showing that Jamaica's consumption of coffee is 0.25 kg per person per year, compared to up to 12 kg per person per year in some countries.
“These efforts, we believe, should preserve and grow our potential export annual earnings from coffee from US$15 million towards the US$25-30 million achieved in previous years, and increase our production from 30 boxes per acre to an average of 90 boxes per acre, helping the country to increase our production from 250,000 boxes to 350,000 boxes by 2025,” Grant said.
He also noted that this year's activities started with a church service at the Fellowship Tabernacle in Kingston, last Sunday, and has focused on the celebration of a number of activities, virtually and face-to-face, with strict observation of COVID-19 protocols.
Some of the activities included: coffee shop crawls; discounts on Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee at local coffee shops; tasting at some of local hotels; a joint ceremony hosted on January 8 by the consulate generals of Jamaica and Japan, as well as JBM promotions at Jamaica's missions in New York, Miami and Tokyo.
A sip and share promotion of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee on social media by influencers and coffee drinkers, both locally and overseas, was also included.
Diane Edwards, the Jampro president, said that JBM coffee is a national treasure, which needs continued nurturing and marketing in a coordinated way.
“We see the need for renewed focus on this premium specialty product, and underscore the need for a sustained marketing campaign that emphasises its unique flavour profile and high quality against the international competition, as well as to recruit and convert new drinkers with a discerning taste profile, including our visitors to our island,” she said.
“We remain unflinchingly committed to ensuring that we develop a strong and sustainable value chain, with the creation of more innovative value-added products from coffee. We, along with our coffee stakeholders, are devoted to re-establishing the prominence of JBM coffee in the international market,” she assured the industry.
— Balford Henry