Cooperativa Café Timor staff load East Timor’s first cassava export, destined for Indonesia.With the first export of 20 metric tons of cassava flour leaving East Timor this month for Indonesia, one cooperative continues to revolutionize the export economy in East Timor and is creating a whole new local market for cassava.
In addition to cassava flour and through support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Timor Leste Agribusiness Development Project, Cooperativa Café Timor—more famously known for its high-quality coffee—recently exported East Timor’s first-ever cloves and vanilla, destined for U.S markets through McCormick and Company.
“It’s very much in line with what the government is doing in diversifying agriculture to enable Timor Leste to move in an export direction,” said East Timor’s Prime Minister Dr. Rui Maria de Araújo during the inaugural shipment ceremony for the cloves in August. During the ceremony, the prime minister joked that now that the door was open, East Timor should be exporting a new product every six months.
Now, less than six months later, they have added vanilla beans and cassava flour to that list. Headed to Indonesia, where cassava is a gluten-free alternative for noodles and other baking products, the project’s high-yielding cassava variety in East Timor, called “mocaf,” is diversifying the crops and incomes of the country’s farmers.
Working with farmers in the eastern part of the island, diversifying the co-op’s agriculture means more farmers can sell to and become members of Cooperativa Café Timor—the country’s largest processor and exporter of coffee. Diversification is a win-win for both the co-op, which experiences growth, and the new farmers, who benefit from membership rates for their crops along with high-quality training. Additional crops produced under the project include pepper and cocoa, also destined for the export market.
Farmers like Abelina Dos Santos—who grows cassava in her fields, sells it to the co-op, and then buys the co-op’s flour to bake into cookies under the Timorgator brand—are creating a duel income from the crop.
Building an export market—particularly to Indonesia where cassava derived products are growing in popularity—means that as the local market gets its footing, there is a stable market for the commodity and CCT can pay up front for cassava tubers. Because the cassava export was the project’s first export of consumer-ready food products, project staff were instrumental in working with the Government’s Ministry of Health and Ministry of Commerce and Industry to compile a process to certify food safety for the country’s industries as well as cooperate with Indonesia to recognize laboratory testing standards using internationally certified food testing laboratories.
This diversification and export is part of the USDA-funded Timor Leste Agribusiness Development Project, implemented through a partnership between NCBA CLUSA and CCT in East Timor.