Arusha. Can increased consumption of coffee locally boost sales of the once leading export commodity?
Tanzania’s traditional exports - which comprise coffee, tea, cashew nuts, tobacco, cotton, sisal and cloves – brought a total of $829.9 million in 2019, up from $ 772.1 million in 2018.
Stakeholders believe increased consumption can go further than that; reducing dependency on the unpredictable export market.
But the strategy to bring the commodity back to its past glory may not be easy for many African countries, with the exception of Ethiopia.
“In Tanzania, people produce for the export market not for local consumption,” lamented Ms Kulthum Suedi, a Tanzanian coffee exporter and processor.
She said the mind-set of the industry players in Tanzania is to produce coffee for the export market, not for household consumption.
Ms Suedi, the assistant general manager of the Bukoba-based Azania Fresh Food said this may change with increased purchasing power of the people.
However, she said there was a perception among lovers of the stimulant drink that only low grade coffee was sold locally for consumption.
“May be we will see increased consumption if the income of people is high,” she told The Citizen at the end of 18th African Fine Coffees Conference and Exhibition in Mombasa.
Ms Suedi added the cost of production of the commodity remained high for the producers to opt for the low earnings from the local sales.
Prof Jamal Adam, the acting director general of the Tanzania Coffee Board (TCB) confirmed the state-run body was aware of low consumption locally.
However, he hinted a number of strategies to turn around the coffee market and which he believes can boost the local sales.
“We are collecting views of different stakeholders on this. It is top on our growth agenda,” said at the board’s exhibition booth at a Mombasa hotel’s show ground.
Interventions suggested include encouraging investors to set up coffee shops in prime zones of the towns and cities and coffee drinking in schools and offices.
“Coffee is a source of energy and stimulant. We should not hesitate to encourage its drinking in public institutions,” he pointed out.
Data released last year indicated local consumption of coffee in Tanzania to be as low as two per cent of the total production in absence of coffee drinking culture.
However, the TCB boss confided to The Citizen that the figure may have gone up to seven per cent due to opening up of more coffee shops lately.
Another TCB official, MR Primus Kimaryo, estimates the annual per capita coffee consumption to 0.06 kg.