Indian Coffee House to get a revamp; outlets across 8 cities to be upgraded

Indian Coffee House branch in Kolkata | Photo courtesy: tasveer/Dauble
The old school environs of the iconic India Coffee House (ICH) will soon welcome patrons with a swanky look as private players vie for operational rights to the eight-decade-old chain of shops.

Currently operated by the Coffee Board, 12 prime ICH outlets have been put up for bids for operation in a franchise model, Coffee Board Chief Executive Officer Srivatsa Krishna said on Tuesday. Coffee chain Café Coffee Day and Mumbai-based food company Afoozo have filed successful bids and the process is ongoing.

The board is also in talks with online retail giant Amazon for setting up ‘digital coffee shops’ that will see quality produce through an online portal, directly sourced from farmers.

He stressed the moves were part of a wider set of steps being taken by the government to streamline operations and increase the brand value of Indian coffee. All this would help to double the average earnings of a coffee farmer by 2022, Krishna said. “Currently, a farmer of the cash crop realises only 3 cents from every cup of coffee sourced from India that is sold for $3-4 in New York city,” he added.

Aiming to boost the visibility of Indian produce in major foreign markets, the board is also in talks with global coffee giant Starbucks for sourcing from India. It outlined major initiatives being undertaken such as drones to monitor pre- and post-harvest crop conditions and mobile apps that allow farmers in rural communities get access to industry and quarantine data.

The government is also planning to introduce blockchain technology to establish traceability for every sack of coffee being sold in India. It is also setting up coffee vending machines, serving special brews at major monuments across the country.

“These measures will add incremental value to the entire agricultural value of the country. But India needs to raise its share of world coffee exports. That will only be achieved through better standardisation and properly dealing with the issue of pesticides,” Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu said. Geographical indicator tags, currently in the works for various types of coffee, will help in this regard, he added.

In 2017-18, crop harvest data showed total coffee production in the country at 316,000 metric tonnes, of which 95,000 metric tonnes was of the Arabica variety and 221,000 metric tonnes of Robusta variety. Despite the country being the seventh-largest producer globally, more than 90 per cent of the yield comes from small farmers.

The devastating floods across Kerala and the southern district of Kodagu in Karnataka, home to major stretches of coffee production, have dimmed the prospect of rising exports in the current year. “Almost 40 per cent of all production areas are affected. We have sought special relief measures from both the state governments as well as the Centre,” Krishna said.

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