This is a transcript from PM. The program is broadcast around Australia at 5:10pm on Radio National and 6:10pm on ABC Local Radio.
PM - Monday, 11 April , 2005 18:44:00
Reporter: Simon Palan

Australian coffee wins international popularity

MARK COLVIN: The Australian coffee industry is still a relatively small player on the world stage, but its experiencing rapid new growth as it gets discovered by international buyers.

Australian coffee is apparently already so popular overseas that entire crops are being bought out in advance.

But coffee drinkers here seem less keen on home grown blends for their espresso and latte hits.

Simon Palan reports from the far north coast of New South Wales.

(tractor noise)

SIMON PALAN: Tractors are working overtime at Australian coffee plantations. In northern New South Wales especially, coffee production is well and truly on the boil.

A growing number of plantations are cropping up, utilising the regions unique climate and soil quality to produce premium arabica coffee beans.

And faced with a global shortage of quality product, Frank Cassells of the Hogarth Estate plantation says buyers from Europe and the US cant get enough.

FRANK CASSELLS: We went over there cap in hand thinking that, you know, were the young Australians, were in the market here, weve got a good quality product and the importers were saying, the US importers were saying, "Wow, this is a great coffee". So yeah we were very much blown away.

SIMON PALAN: But Frank Cassells is hoping Australian consumers will also get the taste for Hogarth Estate coffee, which is now on sale here for the first time.

Australian coffee consumption has doubled over the last 30 years. Coffee addicts here now rely on more than 55,000 tonnes of coffee beans each year to kick start their day.

But virtually all coffee consumed in Australia comes from overseas.

Well-known brand, Vittoria, has in the past had Australian coffee available in a number of supermarkets. But CEO Les Schirato says the price charged by Australian growers has ensured thats no longer the case.

LES SCHIRATO: Weve been importing Australian coffee for 13 years and I was able to get our Australian coffee onto Qantas and in all the major supermarkets around Australia. And over the last three to four years weve seen our Australian coffee deleted as a blend from all those accounts basically because the price to quality ratio is out of whack.

SIMON PALAN: Frank Cassells concedes price is an issue, but says Australian coffee also has an image problem which needs to be dealt with.

FRANK CASSELLS: Its cheaper to produce coffee in the lower socio-economic countries of the world than it is in Australia, and thats nothing new. Australians though have been conditioned that coffee that comes from other countries is a better quality than the Australian coffee because thats what theyve been used to.

MARK COLVIN: Thats coffee farmer Frank Cassells with Simon Palan.