Cameroon’s coffee production has been suffering from long-term decline, but the New Generation programme aims to rejuvenate the industry by attracting younger producers. Reports Mahamat Ben Abdel in Yaoundé.
Coffee Production has been suffering from a long-term decline in Cameroon. According to figures released on 4 April 2018 by Cameroon’s National Cocoa and Coffee Board (NCCB), coffee production was 20,270 tonnes in the 2016–17 season, a decline of nearly 20% on the 24,500 tonnes produced in the 2015–16 season. This contrasts with exports of 156,000 tonnes of coffee in 1990.
In an effort to rejuvenate the industry, Cameroon’s Cocoa and Coffee Inter-professional Council (CCIC) launched the New Generation programme in 2012. It seeks to attract younger people into coffee cultivation and renew the trees on the plantations to make them more productive.
In December 2017, an assessment of the programme showed that 95 young people had completed the process, planting a hectare of plants each. This year, the enrolment of 300 young people has been announced. For the chairman of the CCIC, Apollinaire Ngwé, the involvement of these young people in the reinvigoration of the industry is an absolute necessity: “Thanks to these young people and the availability of seeds, three years from now we will be able to raise production levels.”
A promising trend
It was against this background that the sixth edition of the “Festival du Café” (Festicoffee) was held on 4 April. It was an opportunity for the minister of commerce, Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana, to talk with the producers and evaluate the progress made in the industry.
“The trend is promising”, said Michael Ndoping, general manager of the NCCB, as did Joseph Mouen Bedimo, deputy general manager of the Agricultural Research Institute for Development and Omer Maledy, executive secretary of the CCIC. In support of their statements they mentioned the introduction of improved seed varieties made available to numerous coffee growers and initiatives intended to encourage the growing and consumption of coffee around the country.
Local processing is also, and more than ever, on the agenda. Only 2% of the total output is consumed locally. However, the volume of coffee processed locally grew from 3,786 tonnes in 2015–16 to 5,610 tonnes in 2016–17, a rise of 148%. In 2014 and 2015, Cameroon processed only 448 tonnes of its own coffee. In the space of three seasons, the quantities processed locally have therefore jumped by 1,252%. According to Mbarga Atangana, “Cameroon is currently one of the 80 countries, including five in Africa, at the forefront of promoting local consumption.”
In February 2018, the government announced the setting up of a CFA900m ($1.7m) fund to stimulate the coffee industry by accelerating the local production and industrialisation of coffee (75% of the coffee consumed locally is imported).
As early as September 2014, the government had adopted a plan to re-invigorate and develop the cocoa and coffee industries by 2020, with the aim of increasing production of cocoa to 600,000 tonnes and of coffee to 160,000 tonnes (125,000 tonnes of Robusta and 35,000 tonnes of Arabica). For coffee this plan is in addition to the development strategy drawn up in 2010 by the Ministry of Commerce with the support of the Inter-national Trade Centre in Geneva.