Vietnam Coffee Production History
Coffee was introduced to Vietnam in 1857 by the French and slowly grew as producer of coffee in Asia. The height of coffee production occurred in the early 20th century as small-scale production shifted towards plantations. The first instant coffee plant, Coronel Coffee Plant, was established in Biên Hòa, Đồng Nai Province in 1969, with a production capacity of 80 tons per year.
The Vietnam War disrupted production of coffee in the Buôn Ma Thuột region, the plateau on which the industry was centered. Although seldom involved in conflict, the area was a crossroads between North and South and was largely depopulated. After the North Vietnamese victory the industry, like most agriculture, was collectivized, limiting private enterprise and resulting in low production.
Following Đổi mới reforms in 1986, privately owned enterprise was once again permitted, resulting in a surge of growth in the industry. Cooperation between growers, producers and government resulted in branding finished coffees and exporting products for retail. It was during this time that many new companies involved in coffee production were established, including Đắk Lắk-based Trung Nguyên in 1996 and Highlands Coffee in 1998. Both of these continued on to establish major brands distributed through a widespread network of coffee shops. By the late 1990s, Vietnam had become the world’s #2 coffee producer after Brazil, but production was largely focused on poor-quality Robusta beans—considered inferior to Arabica due to their bitterness—for export as a commodity. Recent government initiatives have sought to improve the quality of coffee exports, including more widespread planting of Arabica beans, the development of mixed-bean coffees, and specialty coffee such as kopi luwak (Vietnamese: cà phê chồn, “weasel coffee”).
By 2000, coffee production had grown to 900,000 tons per year. Price decreases, however, led annual production to drop to around 600,000 tons/year in 2003.
In 2009, Reuters reported Vietnamese coffee exports at “an estimated 1.13 million tonnes” for the previous year, stating that coffee was second only to rice in value of agro-products exported from Vietnam.