Good afternoon. It is an honor to take part in this afternoon’s ceremony. My respects to Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, His Excellency Joaquim Jose Gusmão dos Reis Martins.
I would like to acknowledge our friends from Café Cooperativa Timor (CCT) – general manager Mr. Sisto Moniz Piedade, Mr. Ross Brandon, and Mr. Bency Issac. I also welcome our colleagues from the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Mr. Chris Rittgers, our Agricultural Counsellor at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, and Ms. Niru Pradhan from USDA in Washington, D.C.
The United States has contributed to the development of agriculture in Timor-Leste since before Timor-Leste’s independence. We partner with Timor-Leste in pursuit of mutual development goals. In this way, U.S. programs in agriculture contribute to a more prosperous, healthy, democratic and self-reliant Timor-Leste. In our partnership with Timor-Leste, the United States has invested at least $125 million in agriculture alone. This began when USAID helped launch the coffee industry around the time of independence. The U.S. partnership with what is today CCT actually began in the 1980s. The United States – through USAID and USDA – provided infrastructure, training, education, research & development and other technical assistance.Our work in agriculture in Timor-Leste also supports communities and households. It helps better prepare for uncertainty and rebound faster when disaster strikes.
USAID’s Avansa Agrikultura and Increasing Resilience in Oecusse projects demonstrate how to increase agriculture production without degrading the soil. These projects also demonstrate how to protect fragile water sources and increase access to clean, safe water for consumers and farmers. New technology resulted in better crop storage, production through the lean season, and less severe problems due to drought, deluge or infestation. It also produces crop varieties resistant to drought and disease. In this way, rural Timorese receive higher incomes. It is well known and worth repeating that coffee is the second largest export for Timor-Leste. The United States is proud to have played a supporting role in helping Timor-Leste achieve this goal.
Today, demand for CCT products is growing from international companies, including Starbucks and Royal Coffee in the United States, Kicking Horse in Canada, Heineken in the Netherlands, and others in Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Germany, Finland and Mexico. CCT achieved sales of about $12.5 million in 2018, with about $11 million of this total in coffee. In addition to coffee, CCT added cassava as well as vanilla, cloves and other spices in recent years. CCT now exports to the U.S.-based McCormick & Company, a major American spice company. We are proud to know that Timor-Leste coffee and spices are on the breakfast and dinner tables of Americans. We are also proud that our assistance here is creating a two-way partnership, which is more sustainable than other forms of international aid.
Today we mark the conclusion of USDA’s Timor-Leste Agribusiness Development Project, a $6-million investment that helped launch CCT’s spice business in 2013. A container of the cloves we saw here today first shipped to McCormick in 2016. This is a handover, not a close out. Our ties with CCT will continue. We also partner with New Zealand in CCT and we are proud of this cooperation to support a major industry in Timor-Leste.
Thank you to our friends in CCT, the New Zealand Embassy and at USDA and USAID for partnering with Timor-Leste. We can all be proud of this success.