The planting of new coffee estates is set to unlock the economic potential of the crop thus allowing increased production from 50,000 tonnes to at least 100,000 tonnes by 2021.
According to the Tanzania Coffee Board (TCB) industry strategy, the country’s stagnated coffee production is largely a result of declining yields, supported by aged trees as well as deficient husbandry practices.
The document envisages the increase in production volumes that would go along with the rise in quality from the present 35 recent for premium coffee to at least 70 percent of the total production.
It is usually considered that a coffee tree becomes economically unprofitable when it passes the age 25 years.
Yet most of the 240 million trees around the country have exceeded such age (average age of 40 years), thus production has slowly declined over the years, largely causing the continuously decreasing yield at the national level, the strategic plan says.
The move has generally exacerbated through poor farming maintenance practices which include insufficient pruning and stumping of trees and poor management of pests and diseases, as well as improper intercropping with banana and other crops, causing soil depletion and overshadowing, it says.
Furthermore, the plan released recently indicates that the absence of replanting was largely a consequence of insufficient support by extension services on specific coffee agronomy issues.
Coffee extension services used to be provided by TCB until the early 1980s, whereby such responsibility was assigned to the Local Government Authorities (LGAs) which provide general agricultural extension services for all crops, it says.
However, it is said that since the LGAs assumed the role, the qualities of such services have been varying from one area to another, are often undermined and at times lack the specific expertise on coffee husbandry.
The matter represents an important bottleneck for any effort aimed at large scale rejuvenation of coffee trees throughout the country, it observes.
According to TCB, a large scale initiative to replant trees of improved varieties appears though necessary as it would allow reducing production costs, while increasing yields allowing coffee farming to become economically profitable.
The document identified a number of regions such as Mara, Kigoma, Rukwa, Iringa, Manyara, Tanga, Morogoro and Mwanza as fit for the coffee expansion, and a preliminary survey, disclose that the mentioned areas would avail 15,000 ha.
The paper also noted that the improved business environment could also unlock the economic potential of the Tanzanian coffee sector allowing for higher investments along the value chain.
The Coffee Act, regulations and marketing strategies should be reviewed periodically to encourage private sector participation and to ensure alignment with the changing business environment, it says.
Coffee is one of Tanzania’s primary agricultural crops representing about 5 percent of total exports, and 24 percent of traditional cash crops and generating earnings averaging USD100m per annum over the last 30 years.
More than 90 percent of Tanzanian coffee originates from smallholder farmers. The industry provides direct income to more than 400,000 farming families and benefits indirectly the livelihoods of 2.4 million people.