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Tanzania’s Coffee Revolution: New Plant Varieties Propel Production by 20%

Tanzania, known for its rich coffee heritage, is set to witness a significant surge in its coffee production, with an expected increase of over 20% in the market year 2023/24. This impressive growth is attributed to the introduction of new coffee plant varieties by the government in 2018. The country’s coffee sector is on the verge of reaping the benefits of these high-yielding coffee seedlings, promising a positive outlook for the entire industry.

The boost in production is not solely attributed to the new coffee varieties; improved weather conditions have also played a vital role in this success story. If the projected increase is achieved, exports of Tanzanian coffee are expected to rise by approximately 13%, reaching an impressive 1.27 million bags. This volume represents a substantial 94% of the annual coffee production in the country. These encouraging statistics were outlined in the recent USDA Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) report on Tanzania’s coffee sector.

Back in 2018, the Government of Tanzania (GoT) took the initiative to replace older coffee varieties in existing plantations with high-yielding Arabica coffee seedlings. Today, these seedlings have matured and are ready to enter the highest-yielding period of their three-year cycle. This strategic move has contributed significantly to the country’s overall coffee production.

The Tanzanian government is relentlessly pursuing its 2021-2025 coffee development strategy, with a clear goal of providing a staggering 20 million new coffee seedlings to farmers annually. To achieve this ambitious target, the primary supplier of coffee seedlings is the Tanzania Coffee Research Institute (TACRI). However, the distribution of these seedlings has faced historical constraints due to insufficient funding for seedling production.

The country-wide planting area remains relatively stable as the new high-yielding seedlings are effectively replacing aging coffee trees in both arabica and robusta-producing regions. Alongside the replacement of older trees, Tanzania’s coffee production is benefiting from a recovery from drought conditions, in addition to the highest production period in the natural cycle of new arabica trees. These factors are collectively contributing to the remarkable spike in coffee production.

Small-scale coffee farmers are at the forefront of this revolution, accounting for approximately 90% of the country’s green coffee production. Coffee holds the status of being Tanzania’s most important cash crop, contributing significantly to the livelihoods of 6-7% of the population.

Despite the encouraging outlook, the FAS report highlights certain challenges affecting coffee productivity in Tanzania. These challenges include inefficient use of farming inputs such as fertilizers, poor agricultural practices, and limited access to credit for coffee farmers.

When it comes to export markets, the European Union (EU) leads the pack, followed by Japan, the United States, Morocco, Russia, South Korea, India, Australia, and South Africa. Tanzania’s coffee exports have been performing remarkably well in these markets, culminating in record sales and a substantial boost to the country’s economy.

In June, the Tanzania Coffee Board (TCB) announced that the nation’s coffee exports had hit an impressive milestone, generating a revenue of US$231 million (approximately TZS 440.5 billion). This historic sale has been a result of the export of 81,498 tonnes of coffee beans during the 2022/23 season.

To maintain this growth trajectory, the Tanzania Coffee Board plans to distribute between nine to eleven million coffee tree seedlings to farmers by September this year. The producer prices for Arabica coffee and Robusta coffee are TZS 3,000 and TZS 2,000 per kilogram, respectively.

In conclusion, Tanzania’s coffee sector is set for a remarkable journey, driven by the introduction of high-yielding coffee seedlings and favorable weather conditions. With the government’s unwavering commitment to coffee development and the dedication of small-scale farmers, Tanzania is poised to make a significant mark on the global coffee industry, reinforcing its position as a key player in the world of coffee production and export.

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