News / Africa

    Cameroon’s Coffee Farmers Blame Government for Production Drops

    A grower picks coffee cherries from a tree in Sasaima near Bogota, Colombia, a big competitor for Cameroon's struggling coffee growers.
    A grower picks coffee cherries from a tree in Sasaima near Bogota, Colombia, a big competitor for Cameroon's struggling coffee growers.
    Ntaryike Divine Jr.

    The 2014 farming season has unfurled 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 with 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 70s and 90s, 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.”

    Cameroon's coffee farmers complain about plummeting industry
    Cameroon's coffee farmers describe plummeting industryi
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    Back then, the vastly fertile country was ranked 12fth 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 750 million FCFA - about $1.5 million dollars - 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

    Saudi Arabia’s New Female Politicians in the Other Room 

    Many in Saudi Arabia say elected representatives should share unsegregated spaces; according to a recent survey, more than half the Saudi population, both men and women, prefer to work in a segregated place

    Russia Not ‘Apologetic’ for Syria Airstrikes

    With Moscow criticized for targeting armed opponents of President Assad, Russia’s UN envoy says his country ‘acting in a very transparent manner’

    Pakistan Warns of Islamic State's Growing Reach

    Aftab Sultan, General Director General of Intelligence Bureau (IB), briefed Senate Committee in closed hearing, saying that IS-linked groups have been expanding in Pakistan

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.