Timor-Leste coffee: Marketing the “golden prince” in post-crisis conditions

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Food, Culture and Society, 2015, 18 (3), pp. 481 - 500
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© Association for the Study of Food and Society 2015. Over the past decade, Timor-Leste has aimed to identify and execute numerous peace-building and state-building initiatives. Central to the country’s strategic development plan is the careful management of its resources and exports. While the development of downstream industries in the oil and gas sector is the tiny nation’s strongest source of revenue, rehabilitation of its coffee sector has also been flagged for development. Although a relatively small player in the global coffee trade-producing under 0.2 percent of the global coffee supply-Timor-Leste’s coffee sector enjoys one comparative advantage: it constitutes the largest single-source producer of organic coffee in the world. However, despite attempts to boost this sector’s viability through fair-trade partnerships and development-oriented agents, the complex interplay of myriad structural bulwarks shows just how formidable the challenge facing Timor-Leste is. This phenomenon is situated within the fraught history of Timor-Leste and the current plight of its coffee sector sits within a larger narrative of extreme deprivation and asymmetries of power. This article thus considers the limits of fair-trade organic coffee exports to address Timor-Leste’s acute poverty.
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