Coffee Association of Malawi (Camal) has bemoaned government’s lack of commitment to promoting the growing of coffee for the commodity to become one of the country’s main foreign exchange earners.
Camal board chairperson Robin Saunders said in an interview that “very little is invested in coffee production” as compared to other crops such as tobacco, which is the country’s number one foreign exchange earner, contributing about 60 percent of the country’s forex earnings.
He said this is despite the fact that Malawi coffee is on high demand in the United States, United Kingdom and South Africa.
“There is a big demand for Malawi coffee out there, but the challenge is that we cannot grow enough to meet the demand,” he said.
Malawi exports 1 000 metric tonnes of coffee a year which is grown on 1 500 hectares of land, earning the country around $3 million (K2.1 billion), according to Camal.
Saunders said Malawi has the potential to produce more if there is commitment to addressing challenges rocking the coffee industry.
“We replicate the same seeds which after years lose strength. We need more materials and research on this.
“The other challenge is that it is difficult to convince a farmer to grow something that rewards them after three or four years.
“They want short-term investment, but coffee is a tree which starts producing after three years. That is why we are stuck with maize and tobacco,” he said.
Saunders said the coffee market has also been liberalised, a situation that works to the disadvantage of smallholder farmers as vendors invade rural areas to buy the crop at lower prices.
Meanwhile, Camal in partnership with the African Coffee Association has intensified the promotion and marketing of Malawi coffee through a competition dubbed Malawi National Taste of Harvest.
The competition, now in its second edition, seeks to select top 10 varieties of coffee in the country for auctioning on the international online market.
Teija Lublinkhof, head of Taste of Harvest Programme under the African Coffee Association, said they want to introduce Malawi coffee to the world through the online auction which will take place early November.
“The buyers will be able to order the samples and taste them. In this way, we will be able to introduce these coffees to the buyers who have not had a chance to taste coffee from Malawi,” she said.
Lublinkhof said the auction will be done together with United Kingdom’s company Bean Auction.
“The idea is get better prices and show the world what beautiful coffees we have in Africa,” she said.
Mzuzu Coffee acting chief executive officer Bernard Kaunda said the competition is important because it will make Malawi coffee to be known on the international market. n