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Qima Coffee and RD2 Vision lead scientific study to clarify Yemeni coffee variety names

Yemeni coffee

Following the discovery of Yemenia, a new genetic group of Coffea Arabica, Qima Coffee has partnered with RD2 Vision, Lavazza Foundation and Qima Foundation to release a new scientific paper investigating the validity of using local Yemeni coffee names to describe coffee varieties.

The study investigated the relationship between local coffee variety names used by farmers and their true genetic identity.

It established that there exists no correlation between local names and their respective genetic backgrounds.

The Yemeni coffee sector has for decades relied on local names to describe coffee trees and types, such as Udaini, Jaadi, Tufahi, Jufaini, and Dawairi. Due to their widespread use, and in the absence of any scientific validation, these local names have been assumed to represent genetic varieties, and their use has in fact become synonymous with variety names.

This assumption has serious implications for Yemeni coffee. In the market, it causes confusion for consumers for whom variety names are a critical component of traceability and demand market premiums.

Beyond the market, the assumption also has a significant impact in Yemen itself, where Yemeni farmers make planting decisions and acquire new seedlings based on local names.

Investigating the assumption that local names represent varieties was therefore of critical importance both to support Yemeni coffee farmers generating sustainable livelihoods and to protect Yemeni coffee’s integrity, traceability, and value in the international markets.

“This study represents a fundamental building block to establishing an effective seed sector for Yemen’s coffee industry. Yemeni coffee farmers can now make more informed decisions on planting new trees. If coffee farmers are relying on local names for their planting decisions, they are at significant risk of making planting decisions that do not fulfill their needs, with potentially serious long term financial implications for farm performance and household livelihoods,” says Lead author Dr Christophe Montagnon and CEO of RD2 Vision.

The study covered 148 coffee farms across Yemen’s major coffee growing regions to develop a representative picture of Yemen’s coffee lands. Farmers indicated the local names they used to describe the coffee trees, and these same coffees underwent DNA fingerprinting to identify their genetic background. Some of the most popular names referenced included Udaini, Tufahi and Dawairi. The findings established that there was no correlation between local names and genetics, thereby establishing that local names do not represent varieties.

The study recommended that variety trials would be a critical next step for Yemen’s coffee seed sector to develop a robust genetic and physical description of Yemeni coffee varieties, and to go on to explore the merits and attributes of Yemen’s rich genetic diversity.

“We know consumers pay premiums for exotic coffee varieties, and if consumers are paying premiums for varieties that turn out not to even be varieties, we risk losing significant consumer confidence in Yemeni coffees. Many Yemeni farmers are also under the impression that these local names represent varieties, with agronomic merits, and go on to make planting decisions based on these names, only to discover four years later that the trees are not performing as desired. This study and its results can have a transformative impact on Yemeni coffee, both within and outside of Yemen,” says Faris Sheibani, CEO and Founder of Qima Coffee.

The study was funded by Lavazza Foundation and Qima Foundation, as part of a wider collaboration between the two organisations on a multi-year coffee development programme, which recently completed its first phase.

To read the full scientific paper, visit www.mdpi.com/2073-4395/12/8/1970

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