Tanzania's coffee crop will hit a record high, taking a
large step towards meeting an ambitious government target, boosted by weather
improvements and official support measures.
The Tanzanian coffee harvest - an important earner for the east
African country, which relies on agriculture for some 28% of its economic output
– will hit 1.25m bags in 2015-16, on a July-to-June basis, US Department of
Agriculture regional staff said in a report.
That would represent a rise of 100,000 bags year on year,
and get the harvest within striking distance of a government target of
increasing output to 80,000 tonnes (1.33m bags) by 2016, and 100,000 tonnes
(1.67m bags) by 2021.
Output at this level would lift Tanzanian exports to 1.22m
bags, also a record high, and up 25% year on year.
The USDA report said that the enhanced production prospects
reflected "improved husbandry practices" being encouraged by government
measures to boost agronomic practices and investment in a sector dominated by low-scale
"Favourable" conditions have boosted production prospects
too, in a country where "erratic weather, due to climate change remains an
underlying threat to sustainable coffee production".
Can the upward trend
Indeed, it remains to be seen whether Tanzania will achieve
its 2016 target, which would require a third successive year of production
growth – a feat not achieved since the 1960s.
The harvest of arabica coffee, which accounts for a little
over half Tanzanian output, has historically shown the same tendency for
alternate years of higher and lower crops also shown in some other producing
countries, notably Brazil.
Rabobank analysts noted last year that while Tanzania had
the "potential to significantly increase production and improve the quality of
its beans, considerable amounts of red tape", introduced as part of the
government drive to boost output, were curtailing progress.
The bank cited measures including a ban on direct cherry
sales from farmers to the big coffee houses, such as Ecom, Neumann and Volcafe
active in the country, and limits too on the presence these traders can have in
the processing chain.
The 450,000 smallholders who account for some 95% of
Tanzanian coffee output achieve an average coffee yield of some 0.4 kilogrammes
per trees, a result which "can he increased to 2.5 kilogrammes under the right
conditions", the bank added.
The USDA report also forecast a recovery in coffee output in
Uganda by 250,000 bags to 3.80m bags in 2015-16, on an October-to-September
basis, after a dent to this season's result from drought.
A government-backed programme to boost output from use of better
husbandry and planting of trees from improved stock was also helping prospects.
The Uganda Coffee Development Authority hopes to lift
domestic output to 4.5m bags a year.
Meanwhile, Kenyan production was seen holding steady at
900,000 bags, with the loss of plantations around Nairobi to real estate
development offset by officially-based moves to expand elsewhere, notably in
the Northern Rift Valley, Coast and Western Kenya regions.
"Nevertheless, coffee production continues to face numerous
challenges including: high cost of labour and inputs; erratic rains; high
incidences of pests and diseases; competition from other farm enterprises; and
poor governance of farmer organisations," USDA staff said.
The USDA estimates for the three countries combined peg
coffee output at a 16-year high of 5.95m bags in 2015-16.
Total coffee exports will hit 5.58m bags, also the highest
However, the data exclude statistics from Ethiopia, the
continent's biggest coffee growing country.