Kinshasa — FARMERS in the lawless Central African Republic (CAR) are under siege from rival rebel groups who impose illegal and deterrent taxes.
This is threatening to bring the coffee industry, which is among the major foreign currency earners, to a halt.
According to farmers and humanitarian agencies, in the southern Ouaka bordering the equally volatile Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), there is continuing tension around coffee marketing.
This is especially in Kouango region following the unilateral increase of the newly imposed coffee crate tax by the armed group that controls the area.
Previously set by the government at CFA 1 500 (R34) per bag of 100 kg, the new tax has gone up to CFA 6 000, which has been imposed by rebel groups to fundraise for their illegal operations.
Armed groups have violently taken over from government and have previously been accused of imposing taxes on humanitarian organisations.
"Kouango Coffee producers and traders who are victims of this situation would be in danger of no longer putting their products on the market,"said a humanitarian spokesman.
He said the stringent surveillance measures imposed on the Sudan-Central African border also had a negative impact on the coffee trade in the sub-region.
CAR is among the continent's top 15 coffee producers but production has country of 5 million people.
Last year, more than 3 000 tonnes of the crop were produced. Belgium and France are the major buyers.