Zim's coffee sector collapses

Zim's coffee sector collapses
Published: 05 July 2018
GOVERNMENT is working on a plan to rebuild the coffee sector after output plummeted from almost 15 000 metric tonnes (mt) in 1989 to less than 200 mt in the past few years.

According to a paper titled Strategic Review of the Coffee Sub-Sector in Zimbabwe commissioned by government and the Livelihood and Food Security Programme, there has been an exodus of large-scale farmers from the sector in the past 20 years.

Difficulty in accessing finance has been one of the factors contributing to the decline in output, according to the paper, which adds that President Emmerson Mnangagwa's new administration had taken a keen interest in reviving the sector.

"The sector has virtually collapsed, with production reaching an all-time low of 208 mt in 2010," the paper says.

Statistics accompanying the document indicate that production has continued to plummet since 2010, and is now much less than the 208 mt.

"Several large commercial farmers and small- scale farmers exited the sector, leaving only two active large-scale producers ― Crake Valley Farm and Tanganda Tea Estates ― on 300 hectares, and 392 smallholders on 79 hectares," reads part of the paper.

The document also notes that the period of rapid decline coincided with the controversial land reform programme in 2000, which forced key producers off their land and replaced them with ill equipped new farmers, who have had difficulties accessing funding.

"Given the current socio-economic realities characterised by increasing pressure on land use and input allocation due to the proliferation of alternative and competing crops, farmers have abandoned coffee plantations and, in some instances, uprooted the crop in favour of other crops such as macadamia nuts, avocado and bananas," the paper said.

The data says at independence in 1980, Zimbabwe produced about 6 000 mt of coffee, which doubled to 12 000 mt in 1985, before making a large drop to 3 500 mt 1986.

Production rebounded to 14 600 mt in 1989. But it has been plummeting since 1991.

"To resuscitate the industry, stakeholders in 2012 put together an ambitious five-year strategy (2013-2018) to revive the sector," the paper says.

"This strategy, however, is only aspirational because it did not specify the steps needed to achieve the stated results. It has also been overtaken by the rapidly changing context. With the new political dispensation, there is renewed momentum to revive the once lucrative coffee sector in Zimbabwe. The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement set up a coffee sub-sector working group which met in February 2018 and resolved to come up with a new robust strategy that takes into account the prevailing context," says the paper.

Zimbabwe's coffee accounted for 0,2 percent of global coffee production in 1989 but it employed over 20 000 people.

Contribution to gross domestic product was estimated at 2,1 percent, earning the country $54 million in foreign currency annually, according to the paper.

"The fortunes of the Zimbabwe coffee sector took a turn for the worst in the early 2000s. Production started to plummet as farmers abandoned coffee in preference for other crops such as macadamia nuts, bananas and avocado. In part, the decline in coffee production is attributed to volatility in world prices, high costs of production, the fast-track land reform programme, which changed production and support structures, and the policy landscape that mainly supported cereal production in the country," it says.

- Fin Gaz
Tags: Coffee,


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