EDITORIAL: HEED CALLS FOR IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF OUR COFFEE

Tuesday November 23 2021
Coffee pic

The country that is Tanzania-Mainland today has been producing coffee for aeons – albeit first doing so for ritual/cultural uses, not for export and consumption as we know the beverage today.
This begun in earnest in the 16th century when the Haya tribe in northwest of the country brought in the Robusta-cum-Amwani coffee variety from Abyssinia, modern-day Ethiopia.
In due course of time and events, commercial coffee production of both the Robusta (30 percent) and Arabica (70 percent) varieties took hold across the land.
But then again, the coffee that we produce is only milled locally, with about 90 percent of it exported for further processing abroad for consumption by end-users.
After a lull in coffee production in Tanzania, the annual output has been growing again, rising from 42 thousand tonnes in the 2014/15 harvest season to 66.6 thousand in the 2018/19 harvest season.
Then, for some reason or another, production slightly dipped to 59.3 thousand tonnes in 2019/20 – only to rise again, reaching 68.88 thousand tonnes in the 2020/21 harvest season.
However, what is of greater concern here today is the quality of the coffee being produced. Apparently, the quality is not high enough to make our coffee functionally competitive at coffee markets in Europe, North America and the Far East.
Hence the call by Mr Stephen Kagaigai – the Regional Commissioner of the country’s major coffee producer, Kilimanjaro Region – urging farmers and producers alike to palpably improve the quality of their coffee for higher prices and sustainable export markets.
This is because global coffee consumption is rising rapidly, especially after the World Health Organisation officially lifted coffee from the list of potentially-carcinogenic foods in its June 2016 Report – and “designated coffee as potentially protective against cancer of the uterus and liver”.
We should also encourage domestic coffee consumption for similar reasons.

SUSTAIN TRADE SURPLUS TREND
It took concerted efforts by the six-nation regional economic bloc, the East African Community (EAC), to register for the first time ever a trade surplus with Britain. This was in 2020, when the EAC exported more to Britain, earning $523.9 million, than it imported, spending $503.5 million in scarce, hard-earned foreign exchange.
The resulting trade surplus of $20.4 million (roughly Sh46.86 billion) may not be something to shout about from the housetops.
But, taking into account the challenges that the EAC had to surmount to record the surplus, then it is appreciable that it was all worth the efforts taken.
The year 2020 was, for example, when the global Covid-19 pandemic caused by the mutating coronavirus, and the seemingly endless global climate change, were ravaging and savaging humanity and economies at the national and global levels.
Yet, the EAC countries were able to turn the tables on their former “colonial master” at the international marketplace.
What’s now needed is for the EAC to continue the trade surplus trend in our favour well into the future, ensuring that we remain at the top of things squarely but fairly – always bearing in mind that, where there is a will, there is a way.