By Wisdom Mumera.
Harare, Zimbabwe. (News Of The South) – Coffee production has remained on a negative trajectory due to the under-capitalisation of re-settled farmers, inconsistencies in agricultural policies and the absence of an inclusive representative body for the sector.
According to a study by the Zimbabwe Agricultural Competitiveness Programme (Zim-ACP), coffee has experienced the largest decline in production levels from an industry record of 14 664 metric tonnes (mt) in 1980, to a meagre 350 tonnes last season.
Zim-ACP commissioned the assessment of coffee, tea, banana, macadamia, avocado and citrus sectors in order to determine the status and competitiveness of each of the tree crop industries as well as explore the opportunities and challenges faced by smallholder farmers in each of the crop category.
Of all the sectors assessed; coffee has experienced the largest decline in production levels.
“Given the high level of investments required to establish tree crops and the long term view before meaningful returns start to accrue, it’s a strenuous task especially for small holder famers whose capacity can only sustain short’, Godfrey Mudimu a research officer with the
“The four remaining commercial coffee plantations are either in the process of rejuvenating existing coffee stands, or planting new stands”, said Mudimu.
Coffee is mainly grown in the Eastern Border Highlands because the area has favourable climatic conditions.
However, after the haphazard land reform programme that did not take due consideration in protecting farms strategically positioned to contribute to national development, most of the commercial coffee farms repossessed by government are not producing enough to match
Installed coffee processing capacity stands at 50 000 metric tonnes per annum based on three major institutions namely Zimbabwe Coffee Marketers (ZCM), Grain Marketing Board (GMB) and commercial estates.
“Currently, ZMC is mothballed and it would require at least about 4000 Mt to be commercially viable while GMB offers a toll processing and marketing service”, reads a report by Zim-ACP The Coffee Commodity Group (CCG) represents smallholder farmers while the commercial sector is represented by the Zimbabwe Coffee Growers Association.
The tea industry, on the same note has declined especially in smallholder sector from a high record of 3500 in 2002 to between 300 and 800 currently.
Much of the decline in numbers is attributed to perceived low price points for the tea green leaf.
Another contributory factor to the decline has been the closing down of Katiyo Estate and the attrition of many of the smallholders supplying that facility.
While tea production has shrunken, there is an overall improvement as operating tea estates are on a replanting exercise replacing old plant plants with higher yielding varieties.
The coffee and tea sectors have the potential to engage large numbers of smallholder famers as well as contributing significantly to farm employment creation.
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