Tanzania forecasting 17 per cent decline in coffee output in 2009/10 season

Tanzania sees its coffee yield falling by as much as 17 percent in the 2009/2010 (May-April) crop season due to poor flowering in some growing areas, a senior coffee official said on Tuesday.

The country expects to produce nearly 60,000 tonnes of coffee beans during the current 2008/2009 season.

“I`m expecting (for 2009/2010) probably we might be having 50,000 tonnes, 55,000 tonnes or 52,000 tonnes,“ Adolph Kumburu, chief executive of the Tanzania Coffee Board (TCB) regulator, told Reuters by telephone from Moshi in northern Tanzania.
\"It will go down to an extent.“

He said the fall in production was partly caused by poor rainfall that stunted flowering in northern growing regions.

“The short rains were expected in October, November. That was the flowering time for the coffee, so it has not been what was expected in (Mount) Kilimanjaro region,“ Kumburu said.

He said the 2008/09 crop had surpassed their 50,000 tonne forecast, having already reached 58,000 tonnes, and that this could rise to close to 60,000 tonnes by the end of the season.

In 2007/08, Tanzania produced 43,000 tonnes of beans. In 2006/07, it harvested about 45,000 tonnes, having recovered from drought that kept its 2005/06 crop just under 35,000 tonnes.

Kumburu attributed the good figures for 2008/2009 to higher yields in the western region of Kagera by Lake Victoria, and in Mbeya and Mbinga in southern Tanzania.

TCB is yet to calculate an average price for the 2008/09 season. Kumburu said the average price for arabica beans fell by 34 percent to $2.08 per kg between August and December last year due to turmoil in the global financial markets. In 2007/08, arabica fetched an average of between $2.20 and $2.50 per kg.

Between August and December, the average price for robusta beans dropped to $1.31 per kg from $1.87 per kg. Robusta fetched an average of $1.60 to $1.70 per kg in 2007/08.

Tanzania mainly produces arabica. Coffee thrives mostly in the northern, southern and western parts of the country in areas around Mount Kilimanjaro and Lake Victoria with an annual average rainfall of between 1000 and 2000 mm.

Small-scale farmers produce about 90 percent of the coffee.

Kumburu said the country aims to raise annual production to 100,000 tonnes by 2013 and to increase the area under coffee cultivation to about 300,000 hectares from between 250,000 and 265,000 hectares at present.

TCB also aims to increase the yield smallholder farmers get to 500 kg of coffee per hectare by 2013 — from between 200 kg and 250 kg a hectare now — by introducing new pest and disease resistant varieties that also produce more beans per tree.

The top buyers of Tanzania coffee in 2008/09 were Japan, the United States, Germany and the Nordic countries, Kumburu said.

Apart from dealing with lower prices due to the credit crunch, Tanzanian farmers have also had to contend with higher prices for inputs like fertilisers and pesticides, he said.

He said local fertiliser costs had more than tripled in the past year to close to 95,000 shillings per 50 kg bag, and that farmers found it unaffordable despite government subsidies.


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