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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube 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.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid