Industry experts tout Zambia’s coffee production potential

Zambia has the potential to produce 400 000 tons of coffee with an average value of US$1 billion by removing barriers that keep smallholder farmers out of the sector, say industry experts. ECI Africa, an international development and management consultancy, says coffee production can create more jobs, because it is so labour intensive.

“Enhancing irrigation capabilities and breaking technology barriers among smallholder farmers to venture into the production of coffee will act as primary movers for realising the full potential of the industry,” reads an ECI Africa working paper submitted to the International Growth Centre. The centre is affiliated with the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Zambia produces Arabica coffee – the most highly regarded species – from plant seedlings grown at farm nurseries. The coffee consists of two categories: conventional varieties and semi-dwarf varieties. It is harvested between May and September.

This year’s production is projected at 2 300 tons, an increase of 1 400 tons compared to previous years. At the current world market price of US$1 102/per ton, potential earnings are in excess of US$2.5 million. ECI Africa says the development of the specialty segment, accompanied by premium prices, is a huge incentive for Zambia to increase coffee production.

“The consumption of traditional coffee has declined over the recent years to be overtaken by specialty coffees. These are particularly important coffee producers that are faced with social, economic and development challenges.” ECI Africa recommends the establishment of out-grower schemes to encourage the participation of small-scale producers, like in the case of sugar and cotton.

It also said the cultivation of coffee must be aggressively promoted through government policies and the Farmer Input Support Programme. This, coupled with access to the latest technology and cultivation practices – including the use of irrigation – will increase Zambia’s coffee production.

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