News / Economy

Cameroon’s Coffee Farmers Blame Government for Production Drops

FILE - Cameroon's faltering coffee industry is asking growers like this one near Bogota, Colombia to teach them better farming practices.
FILE - Cameroon's faltering coffee industry is asking growers like this one near Bogota, Colombia to teach them better farming practices.
Ntaryike Divine Jr.
The 2014 farming season is unfurling against a backdrop of swelling despair for Cameroon’s coffee sector. Harvests of the nation’s once-blooming cash crop have hit an all-time low of more than 50 percent slump from the previous year. 
 
Growers, dealers, experts and farmer organizations are all piling blame on faulty government policies dating back to the early 1990s and calling for renewed subventions to farmers.
 
The Interprofessional Cocoa and Coffee Council says yields from the 2012-2013 season stood at just over 16,000 tons, down from above 38,000 previously.  Meanwhile between the 1970s and 1990s, Cameroonian coffee growers were among the country’s wealthiest farmers.
 
“Our coffee is currently in very bad shape,” says Omer Gatien Maledy, executive secretary of the council. “That’s the lowest figure we’ve known since Cameroon started growing coffee in 1957.  And yet, we’ve known prosperous years.  In 1990, we exported 156,000 tons.  That was our best year.”
 
Ntaryike Divine Jr. talks to Cameroon's coffee experts about needed reforms
Ntaryike Divine Jr. talks to Cameroon's coffee experts about needed reformsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

Back then, the vastly fertile country was ranked 12th among the world’s biggest coffee growers.  Today, it falteringly sits on the 31st position and experts fear the yields slumps could continue even further over the coming years.
 
Bad roads and a changing climate
 
Ngewou Thomas is a farmer and exporter in Nkongsamba, a colonial town in the Littoral region once known as the “Coffee Capital of Cameroon.”  He says the poor yields last year could not be averted. 
 
“A lot of coffee was abandoned in the farms because access roads were not maintained,” says Thomas. “Elsewhere, soils are sufficiently old and the big farmers in the years gone by are all ageing out or dead and their children are leasing out the farms to banana producers and heading off to the cities.”
 
Experts offer several other factors that contributed to the failures: longer rainy seasons provoked by climate change causing massive falling of leaves before pollination; costly inputs like fertilizers and pesticides; lack of mechanization; the absence of large-scale farming as well as alleged sidelining of coffee in the allocation of government technical support and grants.
 
The ongoing coffee production dips began with the global economic crisis of the mid-80s that provoked sharp price plunges on the world market.  Across the major growing hubs in the western, coastal and southeastern parts of Cameroon, demoralized farmers even uprooted coffee plants in preference for quick-maturing crops like beans and corn which are more readily marketable locally. 
 
Officials say rather than step up incentives to empower coffee growers weather the economic go-slow, the government blundered by freezing subventions, liberalizing the sector and fueling the downfall of cooperatives.  
 
Blame falls on government policies
 
“If we are honest, then we should acknowledge the fact that government policies beginning in the 90s led to the situation we find ourselves in today,” said Thomas.
 
Former trade and industry minister Patrice Mandeng Ambassa says, “Unfortunately, I was the last minister to have fixed prices for cocoa and coffee back then.” He is now president of the Finance Commission at the National Assembly.  
 
“After that total liberalization of the sector followed with the consequences being that the maintenance of basic infrastructure like roads stopped, the state stopped providing subventions. So, farmers suddenly found themselves with financial burdens they had not planned for.”

The Interprofessional Cocoa and Coffee Council believes the problems blighting the sector have been sufficiently diagnosed, but there is a need for fresh political will at the level of the government to re-launch coffee production.
 
The government appears to be responding positively. They are talking with Brazilian experts who could teach Cameroonian farmers their best practices. The International Coffee Organization may offer training programs and transfer technology.  
 
In the meantime, the council has announced it is disbursing about U.S. $1.5 million in an emergency relief plan to halt the plummeting harvests over the coming five years with assorted assistance and support programs.
 
Optimism is on the horizon
 
“World demand for coffee is constantly on the rise,” says Maledy, “and projections show that up to 2020 and 2025, demand will grow by 2.2 percent and so coffee must be produced. 
 
“Countries like Brazil - the world’s leading producer - can no longer chop down the Amazon to expand plantations due to calls for environmental preservation. 
 
“And the second-leading producers - Vietnam and Indonesia - are actually reducing their coffee-growing areas.  So, we have a huge opportunity in Cameroon and it will be unfortunate if we don’t benefit from the situation.”
 
Elsewhere, farmers are saluting a decision by the European Union to grant the country a non-reimbursable US$30 million for the revival of robusta coffee production. They propose to resurrect abandoned plantations, restore  cooperatives, and improve product quality and commercialization channels.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8012
JPY
USD
117.52
GBP
USD
0.6346
CAD
USD
1.1249
INR
USD
61.875

Rates may not be current.