Government and local players in the coffee industry say there is need for deliberate policies and investment in the sector to tap into the growing world demand of the commodity.
Data from the United States Department of Agriculture shows that coffee consumption is expected to climb for a seventh straight year this year.
The department also forecasts that world coffee stockpiles for the 2017-2018 season will drop to the lowest in five years as global demand remains buoyant.
Commenting on the forecast, Minister of Agriculture Irrigation and Water Development Joseph Mwanamveka said the development should encourage coffee growers in the country to produce quality coffee and in large quantities to cash in on the surging demand.
“We ought to take advantage of the high demand and maintain producing high quality coffee. We have for instance Mzuzu Coffee which is loved outside Malawi, we want to see growers taking advantage of this,” he said
To support coffee growers, the minister said government put inplace the National Export Strategy and the National Agriculture Policy to encourage the production of strategic crops which can be exported such as coffee.
Mwanamveka was upbeat that the growing demand will fetch higher prices for Malawi coffee, which will ultimately boost farmer’s incomes and the country foreign exchange position.
Last year, Malawi registered an increase in the number of buyers from Taiwan, USA, United Kingdom (UK) and Norway who expressed interest to bid the local coffee.
In the past only four bidders from UK, USA and Taiwan were interested in buying local coffee.
In an e-mailed response to a questionnaire, Coffee Association of Malawi (camal) board chairperson Robin Saunders said Malawian coffee has always been on high demand due to the fact that Malawi has a good reputation as a quality Arabica coffee producer.
He said the major setback for the country has been reduction in supply.
He cited issues linked with climate change, the liberalisation of trading coffee and the infiltration of unscrupulous unregistered foreign traders, who are buying dry-parchment and un-processed coffee as factors leading to the decline in supply of coffee on the international market.
Saunders pointed out that Malawi coffee will remain in high demand and cautioned that to meet the demand in the future will be difficult.
“Ideal growing conditions for coffee are changing due to climate change and previously suitable areas are no longer suitable.
“Rainfall and availability of water is the single most important factor when looking at growing coffee,” he said.
Saunders explained that to meaningfully attain the right channels there is a need to address the marketing channels more aggressively in terms of ensuring the right channels and documentation are used to ensure growers and producers are not being taken advantage of.
“More work is required in developing better planting material, with special focus on drought tolerance and yield,” he added.
Malawi exports 1 000 metric tonnes of coffee a year which is grown on 1500 hectares of land, earning the country around $3 million (K2.1 billion), according to Camal.