Coffee resilience: Nestle says diverse ag strategies needed to tackle sustainability challenges in SEA

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Nestle has stressed that a range of regenerative agricultural strategies are crucial to tackle ASEAN coffee production and sustainability challenges. ©Getty Images
Nestle has stressed that a range of regenerative agricultural strategies are crucial to tackle ASEAN coffee production and sustainability challenges. ©Getty Images

Related tags Nestlé Coffee Sustainability

Nestle has stressed that a range of regenerative agricultural strategies will be crucial to tackle coffee production and sustainability challenges in South East Asia.

The MNC detailed its view via the first progress report on its Nescafe Plan 2030.

This was first launched in 2018 with a focus on key coffee production markets, many of which are located in Asia including Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Thailand and the Philippines.

Amongst these, South East Asian markets Indonesia and Vietnam have been recognised to be amongst the top seven markets from which Nescafe sources 90% of its coffee, driving the firm’s eagerness to ensure sustainable coffee production.

“The Nescafé Plan 2030 Progress Report shows the potential of regenerative agriculture to help make coffee farming more sustainable over the long term [and we want to] support coffee farmers to make this transition, including giving them the know-how and tools they need to increase yields and income whilst helping reduce carbon emissions at the same time,”​ Nestle Coffee Strategic Business Unit Head Philipp Navratil said at a media event focused on the report.

“Each location experiences different challenges and conditions, and we set out different tailored programmes for each – [in Indonesia for example], the rainfall patterns here are very vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

“[This necessitated us to support] farmer resilience through various practices including coffee plant rejuvenation, improving soil fertility, promoting compost fertilizers and income diversification with goats and intercropping.

“We are also trialling a weather insurance scheme to mitigate the income impact of erratic rainfall patterns.”

A great deal of focus was placed on the importance of different diversified strategies that can be employed both for each market and within each market, an approach that was heartily supported by Rainforest Alliance, the firm’s partner in this initiative which also conducted its own sustainability-focused analysis and launched its own separate report concurrently.

“We have seen some encouraging trends in some countries such as improved incomes, increased adoption of regenerative practices, integrated approaches and more,”​ Raiforest Alliance Monitoring and Evaluation Managet Yustika Muharastri said.

“[In the ASEAN region], our analysis shows that for Vietnam in particular an important feature that has benefitted local coffee growers has been income diversification to enhance their economic resilience – [so] despite slightly higher production costs and a minor decline in yields per hectare, strategies like intercropping mean that their net income increased.

“In Indonesia, we saw that in 2021 higher prices were not enough to cover rising local labour and input costs and the impact on yields by heavy rains and wind during the flowering season –but in 2022, data suggests that yields returned to better levels, which combined with improved prices brought positive income developments.

“Taken together, the data shows that tackling one single driver—such as farming practices or prices—will often not be enough [and] an integrated approach that combines strategies to improve yields, optimise production costs, and encourages regenerative agriculture practices is necessary.”

Regeneration requirement

The Nescafe Plan 2030 has a good deal of its strategy revolved around regenerative agricultural practices, which includes not only the aforementioned intercropping and integrated approaches but also less chemical pollution of the soil, which has been cited as another major achievement.

“Another positive development for regenerative agriculture is the decline in use of agrochemicals (herbicides and pesticides) in several countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam and so on from 2018 to 2022,”​ the report stated.

“While this is partially because of the rising cost of these inputs, we can also partly attribute it to the distribution of leaf rust-resistantcoffee plantlet varieties, as well as agricultural training in safer weed and pest management techniques.”

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