When one strolls into their favorite coffee shop on a typical arctic-conditions day like the ones we've been enjoying in Michigan lately, they usually see coffee beans imported from well known "coffee countries," such as Colombia, Brazil, or perhaps an African country like Ethiopia, Kenya, or a rising coffee-exporting nation like Zambia. In spite of this, reports show that Vietnam is actually the world's second largest exporter of coffee, with its share of the global market rising nearly 20% within the last 30 years. Vietnam's coffee industry, which employs 2.6 million people, produced nearly 3 billion pounds of coffee in 2012-2013. The country's coffee exports have landed primarily in Germany and the United States, but imports from other European Union countries, as well as Japan and South Korea, have also contributed to Vietnam's rapid and surprising growth in coffee exports.
Coffee was first introduced to Vietnam in the 19th century by the French and had a processing plant running as early as 1950, but the Vietnam War and its aftermath nearly destroyed any hope of the industry making a significant impact on the nation's economy. Following the war's finish in 1975, the economy of Vietnam was in shambles, which lead to the government to follow Soviet economic policies of collectivizing the country's agricultural industries. A decade later, it was clear that these policies were greatly inhibiting economic growth, so the Communist party decided to abandon its strict communist rhetoric and privatize many of its industries, including coffee production. The numbers rebounded, as seen by the 20-30% increases that occurred every year throughout the 1990s, as well as a 50% reduction in Vietnamese living in poverty between 1994 and the present.
In spite of the economic growth that has accompanied the privatization of Vietnam's coffee industry, its rapid expansion does carry possible repercussions as well. Despite the end of the war occurring nearly 40 years ago, huge numbers of unexploded land mines still remain in Vietnam's fields, including the staggering 83% of the fields in the Quang Tri province that are estimated to contain live explosives. Furthermore, environmentalists believe that the land being used for coffee production is steadily being exhausted due to excess use of water and fertilizer. Regardless of these warnings, Vietnamese coffee producers have their sights firmly set on developing an international chain of Vietnamese-style coffee shops to compete with dominating brands like Starbucks, and as long as the means of production are adapted to meet long-term goals of continued coffee production, the numbers show that their goals are within reach.