Land reform sinks coffee production

Zimbabwe’s coffee production has declined 85% in the past five years after the number of producers of the cash crop fell as a result of the fast-track land reform, which led to the alienation of coffee estates for other purposes, according to the European Commission (EC).
The EC has been supporting small-holder coffee producers from Honde Valley in Manicaland since 1982 and has injected £7,6 million in the sector over the years, including funding the establishment of Mutare Mill where most small-scale producers sell their produce.
From 125 commercial farmers and 2 600 small-scale producers in 2002, the number of registered coffee farmers has declined to just four commercial farms and 200 registered small-scale farmers to date, according to Josephat Rushinga, the general manager for Zimbabwe Coffee Mill.
As the industry contracted, national coffee output also slumped steeply to 268 tonnes in 2010 from just under 2 500 tonnes in 2005. It had been on a downward trend since 1990 when output hit a peak of 15 000 tonnes, dropping to 10 000 tonnes in 2002
Most of the small-scale farmers are located in Honde Valley, jointly producing about 50 tonnes or 1% of the total throughput at Mutare Mill, which has an installed milling capacity of 4 000 tonnes.
The collapse of Zimbabwe’s coffee production has also hit the coffee milling industry, now operating with plenty of unused milling capacity. The total installed milling capacity is estimated at around 50 000 tonnes of green coffee.
The country has coffee milling facilities that include Zimbabwe Coffee Mill Limited, the Grain Marketing Board and at least ten Export Processing Zones, which are now running far below their viable thresholds.
Rushinga says the shortages of throughput were arising from challenges related to working capital to procure inputs and finance overheads.
“We are failing to acquire loans from banks as there is no security currently. Last week a coffee commercial farmer lost a farm to the land reform programme,” said Rushinga.
He urged the government to carry out a land audit and model training programmes for coffee producers to propagate intensive farming. “Coffee production requires a lot of training, which is currently unavailable in the country,” Rushinga added.
Coffee is is mostly used for producing drinking coffee and chocolate.

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