Global glut spells doom for local coffee farmers

07Oct 2018
The Guardian Reporter
Guardian On Sunday
Global glut spells doom for local coffee farmers
  • Tanzania is ranked fourth largest coffee producer in Africa behind Ethiopia, Uganda and Cote d'Ivoire

THE fall in the price of coffee on the world market has led to 3,000 tonnes of unpurchased coffee in the country’s warehouses in the 2017/2018 growing season.

Tanzania is ranked the fourth largest coffee producer in Africa behind Ethiopia, Uganda and Cote d'Ivoire and it exports most of its coffee to Germany, Japan, Italy, Belgium and France.

The bad news was revealed by Agriculture Minister Dr. Charles Tizeba when briefing Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa yesterday in Kagera region when addressing coffee farmers.

Dr Tizeba said, “Cooperative societies face market challenges because only a small amount of the coffee harvested has been purchased.”

The minister said the declining global market had left farmers without income and that their coffee was sometimes not being purchased at all.

“There was also a challenge of misinformation by middlemen who stopped farmers from selling their coffee through cooperatives,” he said.

Speaking at the rally, Premier Majaliwa called on cooperative leaders in the country to make good use of their resources because the government will not repay any debt incurred by the cooperatives.

"Paying cooperative loans is not the fifth phase government’s business, but rather it will take legal action against all those involved in the fraud," Majaliwa warned cooperative leaders.

He also warned traders against robbing farmers by buying fresh coffee at the farm.

The PM issued the warning yesterday when addressing traders and coffee stakeholders after arriving in Bukoba for an official tour of Kagera region.

 The prime minister said the government would take action against dishonest cooperative leaders who misuse cooperative resources because the government wants farmers to earn money from agriculture.

He said the government would ensure that all traders, particularly of agricultural products, have a proper supply system that will increase productivity for farmers.

Majaliwa said the government was seeking to eradicate the existing cooperative system of doing business and leave that role to traders.

He urged the traders to assure the government that they would buy all available coffee stocks from the farmers.

Last January the premier dissolved the Tanzania Coffee Development Trust Fund, saying it was redundant and depriving farmers of their hard-earned money.

At the same time, he directed the revocation of all licences for traders purchasing coffee directly from farmers, reinstated cooperatives and mandated all coffee stocks to be purchased by exporters through auctions, effectively eliminating the possibility of direct trade between the farmer and the exporter.

Tanzania’s coffee crop has struggled in recent years. However, productivity has been down and farmers’ access to credit has been hard to come by.

The Tanzania Coffee Board (TCB), working on a strategic coffee development plan lasting from 2011 to 2021 to double production, missed its 2017 target by 41 per cent.

Coffee is one of Tanzanian's primary agricultural export crops, accounting for about 5 per cent of total exports, 24 per cent of traditional cash crops, with over 90 per cent of the crop coming from smallholder farmers.

The crop is mainly grown in Kilimanjaro, Arusha, Tanga, Morogoro, Mbeya, Ruvuma, Iringa, Kigoma and Kagera regions where in the 2017/2018 fiscal year at least 43,000 tonnes were expected to be harvested.

In the 2015/2016 coffee farming season, the crop earned the country $135m in foreign exchange.