Rota Coffee Company

2003 Annual Report for FW01-092

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2001: $14,980.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Region: Western
State: Northern Mariana Islands
Principal Investigator:
Beato Calvo
CREES Coordinator

Rota Coffee Company


Demonstrate the feasibility of commercial cocoa and coffee production for export markets from Rota.

The project suffered from three major storms in 2002. The first storm, Typhoon Chataan, damaged trees planted early in 2002. The trees were treated to help them recover when a second storm, Typhoon Bonlong, hit. Despite lighter winds, many young plants died because of previous damage. The final setback, Typhoon Pongsona, hit Rota with wind speeds approaching 220 miles per hour, the highest ever recorded on the island. The storm destroyed the work to date, except for the land clearing. Despite the setbacks, the project team remains optimistic.

“We have had great community interest and we have learned from these disasters,” says the annual report. “We will replant, rebuild and continue toward a successful project.”

The project team has cleared 2 hectares of the property proposed for the project and has planted 2 acres – unfortunately it was the same acre planted twice. Still, papaya, taro and hot peppers have been successfully produced as intercrops in the plantation.

Before Typhoon Pongsona in December, a nursery had been established with more than 500 coffee plants and a building was under construction to serve as a processing facility for the crops grown on the Gigani Fruit Farm and the Rota Coffee Company farm. Enough plants remained to replant the first acre of coffee. In addition, new seeds from three drought-resistant varieties have been ordered from Hawaii. Another valuable resource from Hawaii has been the advice of Scot Nelson, a University of Hawaii coffee specialist.

The project team also learned the value of windbreaks. More than 300 da’ok (Callophyllum inophyllum) seedlings have been produced and will be planted between every seven rows of coffee plants in a redesigned plantation configuration. Another wind-resistant tree, betel nut palm, will be planted at 30-foot intervals in every second row of the plantation in a triangle formation. Both betel nut palm and da’ok produce high-value crops of their own, and betel nut will provide some shading for the coffee. In addition, construction has begun on a new nursery.

Seven farmers – two from Saipan, one from Tinian and four from Rota – have expressed interest in the coffee project.

“We see a strong possibility of attaining our goal of becoming a nucleus processing company and distributor of coffee seedlings to smaller producers,” says the project report. “We have been approached concerning the possibility of exporting a specialty coffee to Japan. Our interests have not been dampened by these setbacks. Even though we have been wounded we have not been defeated.”

Project members have also learned that establishing a coffee plantation takes more than two years – probably five years or more. Their major concern is financial support needed to reestablish and continue the project.

To this point, the project is unable to quantify any benefits to agriculture, although interest expressed by landowners and business hoping to become involved in the coffee project suggests considerable potential.

One producer planted 200 coffee plants on his land, but his plants suffered the same fate as those of the Rota Coffee Company. Another small farmer expanded the area planted to coffee and is currently managing his trees. On Saipan, a farmer has begun planting coffee and another has sought advice from the project team about improving his existing wild trees.

The project team has turned setbacks into positives by taking the opportunity to redesign the plantation configuration and adding wind-resistant trees, which will also provide crops and some shade protection for the coffee plants.

Information about the project has spread by word of mouth. Even though no formal outreach has been conducted, producers and businesses have contacted the project team.