Arusha — New efforts are underway to boost coffee production to regain its position as a leading export crop through improved yields.
Coffee is one of Tanzania's seven traditional export crops, others being cashew nuts, tobacco, cotton, tea, sisal and cloves.
Bank of Tanzania (BoT) figures show that though Tanzania's earnings from exports of traditional crops rose by 33 per cent to $1.152 billion during the year ending June 2018 from $866.4 million during the year ending June 2017, exports of coffee and cotton declined following a drop in export volumes.
Café Africa, a continental body, is spearheading the effort through intensive training of farmers on modern production methods of quality beans.
The programme has just commenced in Kilimanjaro Region. It is being undertaken in collaboration with the Agricultural Non-State Actors Forum (ANSAF).
Under it, there will be demostration farms in each ward within the coffee growing zones in the region, the home of Arabica coffee in Tanzania.
"This will enable the farmers to improve the quality of their produce for higher income," said Mr Magnus Mwang'ata, an extension officer.
He was speaking in Moshi during the end of one such training which attracted 30 extension officers from several wards in Moshi District. The training would also enable the coffee growers to embrace new technologies in the production of one of the country's leading cash crops.
Cafe Africa operations manager Dafrosa Sanga said the training offered was intended to equip the extension officers with the necessary skills "so that they can help the farmers to improve their production and yields".
Coffee is targeted under the programme because it was one of the strategic cash crops for the national economy, the others being cotton, cashew nuts and tea.
In all, a total of 130 agronomists would be trained, 30 from each of the six coffee growing regions, of whom 30 per cent must be women.
Of the 30 per region, a half must come from the private sector and the rest from the public sector, Ms Sanga explained.
"The intention is that these agronomists will then move out into the districts in their respective regions and train other district level agriculture officers in coffee specific regions.
"This should then continue as those district agronomists train the ward level agriculture officers who meet regularly with farmers," she said.
The Tanzania Coffee Board (TCB) has projected the crop's production to reach 60,000 tonnes in 2018/2019 up from 41,679 tonnes in 2017/2018.
The highest production ever recorded in the country's recent history was in 2013 when 71,319 tonnes were produced.
It is estimated that Tanzania has an estimated 250,000 hectares of land under coffee production, according to Cafe Africa.
There are an estimated 530,000 coffee farmers in 50 districts spread across eight main production zones.
In the 1970s and 1980s, coffee overtook sisal as the country's "green gold" and a leading export crop with annual production averaging 60,000 tonnes.
The crop, however, lost much of its attraction to producers, especially in the northern regions, from the 1990s due to low prices in the world markets coupled with low yields.
The crop's revival programme, however, began in earnest in 2011/2012 with the preparation of a ten-year strategic plan
One of its successes of the ambitious plan is implementation of a programme targeting 85,000 farmers in the southern zone regions.
Besides Cafe Africa and TCB, also incorporated in the revival efforts is the Tanzania Coffee Research Institute (TaCRI), based in Moshi.
Coffee prices in the world market have, however, not been entirely stable due to increased production in Brazil, Colombia and Vietnam.
The prices fell by about 15 per cent during the year ending in September last year to $1.93 from $2.28 per kilo for Robusta and $2.96 from $3.52 for Arabica.