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

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    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.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.9098
    JPY
    USD
    105.75
    GBP
    USD
    0.7631
    CAD
    USD
    1.3189
    INR
    USD
    67.209

    Rates may not be current.