Coffee stakeholders from Mbeya, Songwe, Rukwa and Katavi met over the weekend to discuss challenges facing the once-prosperous cash crop in Tanzania.
The stakeholders came up with remarkable measures to curb some of the challenges and revive cultivation of the beans.
Among the challenges include climate change, lack of reliable market and fake farm inputs. Songwe Regional Commissioner (RC) Nicodemus Mwangela described coffee as one of the key cash crops which brings in good amounts in foreign exchange but its production has dropped.
`This is a challenge that needs to be worked on, as of now on average one tree produces 0.25 kilograms, while compared to our colleagues in Kenya on tree yields six kilograms of coffee beans. Here is the problem that we need to act upon as the government and key players in the sector, ` he said. Mwangela said the land in the Southern highlands region is fertile and experts are there to empower farmers with there with better agronomic practices that would scale up production.
`What makes me wonder is why production is still low. Something needs to be done, ` he stressed. He encouraged local government authorities in the four regions to initiate a campaign to ensure that farmers plant improved coffee seedlings with high yields. In the coffee growing districts, more than 20,000 seedlings need to be planted to develop the coffee sector, which of recent is going downhill. The RC directed district commissioners and directors in Songwe to ensure that the region is free from fake farm inputs, while he asked agricultural extension officers to move their offices to the field so as to render farmers with technical- know-how.
Joseph Mkude, Ileje District Commissioner said that more than 400,000 households in the Southern Highlands region are benefitting from the cash crop. The United Nations Environment Program once urged coffee farmers to consider the environmental issue very serious for the sustainability of the sector and health benefits to the consumers. Farmers must also invest heavily in organic farming which in most cases is friendly to the environment and the people`s well being.
Coffee is Tanzania`s largest export crop as on average the country produces around 50,000 metric tonnes each year, approximately 70 per cent Arabica and 30 per cent Robusta. Sales generate over Tshs.2.3 billion ($100 million) per year according to data from the Tanzania Coffee Board. Arabica is grown mainly in Kilimanjaro, Mbeya and the Matengo Highlands (Mbinga). Other Arabica areas include the Usambara Mountains, Iringa, Morogoro, Kigoma and Ngara.
Tanzania is the 19th largest coffee producer in the world.