FOR decades, coffee crop has been the lifeline of growers in Tanzania, producing 70 percent of Arabica coffee and 30 percent of Robusta varieties.
The main growing areas of Arabica are North Kilimanjaro, Mbeya, Matengo Highlands, Mbinga, Usambara Mountains, Iringa, Morogoro, Kigoma and Ngara.
The main growing area of Robusta is the Bukoba area district of Kagera Region. In Kilimanjaro, coffee production started during colonialism and the Government went on to support farmers in the post-independence era, with about 90 percent of growers being small-scale farmers in family lands ranging from about 0.5 hectares to 1.5 hectares.
Approximately 106,331 farmers are engaged in agriculture and the number of growers is more than 100,000 with an area covering more than 75,000 hectares.
Coffee production has been rising and falling. In 1990s production was declining sharply as 1997/98 season witnessed production of 4,600 tons only, down from 25,086 tons that were produced in 1995/96.
From there, coffee production has been between 4,000 and 6,000 tonnes of clean coffee per annum. The situation led to drop in incomes of the locals.
It was quite different from the state of affairs way back in 1960s to 1980s when Kilimanjaro was leading region in contribution to the income of the country.
Statistics show that in 1998 Kilimanjaro was the 17th region in contribution to the national coffers. Some coffee stakeholders have come out and spoken up about coffee production and its associated ups and downs.
The Acting Director General of Tanzania Coffee Board (TCB), Mr Primus Kimaryo cites some of the factors for declining coffee production as old coffee trees that bear no more healthy coffee beans and some farmers embracing old ways of farming in the modern times
.He says climate change effects have come up as a thorn in the flesh to farmers, especially those in small scale and who cannot afford irrigation.
He said the old coffee trees have led to gradual drop in quantity and quality of coffee beans, with only 200 kilograms per hectare instead of about 500 kilograms in the same piece of land from new varieties of coffee trees.
The TCB director says there have been efforts put in place to revamp coffee production, but he signals that in this season, expectations are still low and that is because of drought.
TCB has its headquarters in Moshi Municipality, where coffee auction takes place, bringing coffee from all over the country before exportation is done.
“In the 2017/18 season we expect a drop in coffee production in the country from 50,000 tons to 43,000 tons and this is due to different reasons, the main one being drought,” says Mr Kimaryo.
One of the coffee growers who is also Chairman of the Manushi Sinde Primary Cooperative Society in Kibosho division, Moshi Rural District, Professor John Boshe says they are well prepared and equipped to ensure farmers increase coffee production.
He says growers would be supported to acquire new coffee seedlings that are of high quality, produced by Tanzania Coffee Research Institute (TaCRI).
“For many years coffee has been the cash crop, many Kilimanjaro growers relying on it economically. Many people, including me, have been facilitated in their studies by this crop.
Our parents’ income has primarily and mainly come from coffee production,” says Prof Boshe. The chairman who has been a lecturer in different universities in the country and in the USA says that Kilimanjaro is lagging behind in coffee production due to parents failing to maintain the production chain properly and failing to hand it over to their children.
He said many youth are now not interested in agriculture, let alone coffee growing. “Coffee crop takes three years or so from planting to first harvest while many youth like to get immediate results in investments hence lack interest in coffee although the new varieties we have now take fewer years as compared to the old coffee trees.
I call upon community members to keep in sensitizing the youth so that they agree to engage in coffee farming as it really pays if international standard quality coffee beans are produced.
There is good business in coffee,” says Prof Boshe. As for Manushi Sinde Primary Cooperative Society, Prof Boshe says as of now it has 400 members up from only 20 when it was established in 1978.
He says it is doing well and is out to sensitize more locals on importance of engaging in coffee production.
He says that in 2017 the cooperative society got 214m/- from the United States African Development Foundation (USADF) – an American organization – for different projects aimed at rejuvenating coffee production.
“We got the funds in April last year to work on the projects in a period of two years, meaning that we will go through 2019. We have already started production of coffee seedlings that have been well researched on by TaCRI,” says Prof Boshe.
He unveils that the support has greatly helped to boost their fund, get quality coffee seedlings that are resistant to diseases.
It has also enabled them to get farm inputs and equipment needed in coffee production, get farmers trained on the best agricultural practices.
“In 2017/18 season we have produced more that 40,000 quality coffee seedlings that are disease-resistant and we expect to go on with production of more seedlings as demand is now high,” he says adding that last year they sold only 2,000 seedlings to their members after raising their awareness on best ways to grow coffee and that this year they have sold 10,000 coffee seedlings.
Commenting on harvest, Prof Boshe says that in 2016/17 they collected 9,000 kilograms only, in 2017/18 they got 15,000 kilograms and the coming season they expect to come up with 30,000 kilograms.
Mr Adrian Mushi a member of Manushi Sinde Primary Cooperative Society says growers were facing a lot of challenges, some of them being shortage or lack of agricultural inputs, quality coffee seedlings, ignorance in the modern ways to grow coffee.
He appreciates USDAF support to them that has raised them steadily and are now on course to become one of the best groups of coffee growers as productivity has gone up.
“Extension officers from TaCRI have greatly supported me in extending to me expertise on how to initiate best coffee production, from preparations of the seedlings to the finalization of the harvested coffee beans ready to go for consumers in a standard quality.
I am really proud of it,” says Mr Mushi. USDAF Manager at the primary cooperative society, Mr Venance Ngowo expounds that the project has beneficiaries in five hamlets that are served by the coop-society, that are Sereni, Sokoni, Manushi Ndoo, Misheni and Shule.
There are several reasons attributed to the decline of coffee production, some of them being its price fluctuation in the world market, noticeably fetching low price, climate change effect.
There were also generally poor extension services leading to poor final products that necessarily fetch low prices.
The price fluctuation saw coffee at its peak in recent years when it was sold between 4,000/-and 5,000/-per kilogram in the 2011/12 season.
While growers started to be optimistic after that positive change, the price dwindled in the following season, catching a mere 1,500/- to 2,000/-per kilogram.
TaCRI) Chief Executive Director (CEO), Dr Deusdedit Kilambo says coffee crop in the country faces several diseases, some of them being Coffee Berry Disease (CBD, Coffee Leaf Rust (CLR) that affect Arabica varieties of coffee while Coffee Wilt Disease (CWD) attacks Robusta.