History / Estate

The first coffee recorded on Tanna was in 1852. Brought from New Caledonia, a variety of coffee called Bourbon was planted at Port Resolution.

Due to natural occurrences and Tanna’s remoteness at this time, most of the coffee had disappeared by 1920. In 1960 to 1964 a new coffee development program was set in place on Tanna with Trial plantings of Aribica varieties from Fiji. Unfortunately the fungal disease ‘Rust’ destroyed this particular plants chances of surviving. Arusha a native from Tanzania was introduced in 1962 which had some ability to withstand the reoccurring outbreaks of Rust on Tanna Island.

Only small amounts were harvested over this time and in 1980 a joint venture started between the Vanuatu government and the British Entity Commonwealth Development Corporation which saw an agreement where, an area in Middlebush Tanna was selected as the future location of a central plantation.This development was also the Reseach and development centre of the coffee industry where many new cultivars were imported and trialled .

After massive development of infrastructure on the ‘Estate’ and strong establishment of new varieties, the growing plantation was firstly hit by Cyclone Ivy. This CAT 4 cyclone damaged many of the trees around the estate and the following year CLR (Rust) re-appeared and decimated the coffee plantation. Coffee development history throughout the world  shows that it has taken decades to find the correct variety that can live and thrive within any particular micro-climate. Production this century has never reached of 67 tonnes but the current 2012 projected target is over 100 tonnes.

In this case it was the Camitor which earned it’s place as the coffee plant which most feels at home on Tanna’s unique Garden of Eden. It is a Dwarf Catimor but does not understand the word dwarf, growing over 5 meters high if left unattended.

In 2003 -2006 a french man named Francois Japoit ,after identifing a serious lack of development in a potentially very important industry to support the local Tannesse, was responsible to support a EU aid initative in re-igniting the sagging industry after failure by the then steward of the industry. POPCA [the name given for this project] spent aid in setting up necessary regional equipment and developing nurseries. This was moderately succussful in terms of plants in the ground , but laid a very strong foundation for others to follow. The program was  lead in no small part by another agricultural educated frenchman , Steven Lenfant who lived on Tanna Island thru-out the program , working closely with the native people ,and is well respected on the Island for his personal efforts. During and after the POPCA program , the steward responsible for many aspects of the industry failed to understand or attend to the needs of the farmers and a lack lustre period of no interest prevailed particularly on the Estate land, but also in the wider regions . Only the technical unpaid work of a local Ni- Van passionate about the benefits of coffee to his people, keep a presence of interest during this time.

In Sept 2007 Tanna Coffee Plantations [TCP] first went to the island and held talks with the INIK Co-op and the Estate land owners, with a view to jointly develop the coffee industry thru-out the entire island for the benefit of their people. TCP put a proposal (put together over a one year period) of which the leaders agreed to and the rest is now history.

This laid the foundation of 2010‘s achievements of 100,000’s of plants either planted or being planted and maximum harvest results , 40 tonnes of parchment coffee this season 2010 with ever increasing qualities now expected. Many people worked and still do work very hard to ensure the strong future of this islands coffee industry , through training and development and understanding that higher and higher standards of the finished product are required by the intended buyers .

THE ESTATE

Between 1982 and 1986 The Commonwealth Development Company [A British Government fund) spent approximately 3 million pounds in setting up and running a coffee development on a 462 hectare lease. Seven main houses and five small houses were built with an office block, maintenance sheds, large pulping infrastructure, large drier, large storage builings and kilometers of internal roads. Leveling of land in some areas turned the wild bush into a paradise for growing coffee and 76 tonnes was the best production from the estate.

After the CDC withdrew from support the Estate was sold into the private sector. In 2000 A new owner materialized and in 2002 a agreement to develop the Estate was entered into but failed to produce any sustainable growth or maintain the structures. The profitable roast and package operation was moved to the capital and the Estate has now fallen into a state of disrepair.

The loss of income and pride to the local people has meant a very uneasy relationship now exists between the two parties. Fortunately the native landowners are now claiming their land back and are actively planting new coffee under the TCP/INIK initiatives. Current production from the Estate is an estimated 6-7 tonnes verses over 56 tonnes from small farmer programs away from the Estate .It is estimated by 2013 the Estate will surpass the best ever production level of 76 tonnes and this will be a fantastic achievement for a locally lead re-development.