Coffee Production in Decline
Africa’s production has sharply declined over recent decades. In 1975, Africa exported about 18.5 million bags of coffee, over 25% of coffee global exports. By 2016/17, exports were at 11.6 million bags, about 9.5% of global exports. There have been many contributing factors.
As many African governments withdrew from the coffee sector in the 1990’s, gaps were left in the organisation of the value chain. In countries such as the DRC, civil war and diseased coffee trees have decimated production. In others, such as Tanzania, aging coffee plantations and aging farmers produce limited yields. Coffee prices plummeted between 2000 and 2004, resulting in a reduced capacity to address what have compounded into industry-wide challenges.
Yet coffee remains a vital source of income to rural households and a sustainable way out of poverty. Meanwhile, global coffee demand is on the rise. A few countries in Africa, notably Uganda, are showing that with the right political support and an enabling environment for private sector investment, coffee production can still be profitable for the farmers, and benefit the national economy.
Global demand for coffee is growing by about 2% per year. Consumption, estimated at 159 million 60-kg bags in 2017, is expected to reach 200 million bags by 2030.
This is being driven by growth in many emerging markets, from the Far East, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. Many producing countries are themselves drinking more coffee. In traditional markets, the gourmet sector continues to show good growth, with improved quality and better coffee making equipment and single serve systems.
Africa can also rely on two other key elements: the fine qualities coming from several origins, and the supply of land, labour and water in several countries. Still, the competition from other agricultural crops, especially food, will be a growing challenge in coming years as the population continues to grow.
Africa’s coffee producers can be fully competitive with those of other continents, provided the levels of productivity can be improved in line with competing regions. This can also create the rural employment opportunities which will slow the rural exodus.