MUTARE – Zimbabwe is only left with about two commercial coffee farmers on 300 hectares, down from 145 who were farming over 7 600 hectares before 2004.
Zimbabwe Coffee Mill director Johane Jori told the Eastern News in an exclusive interview that the two are complemented by 400 smallholder farmers on 77 hectares.
There were over 2 000 smallholder farmers on over 400 hectares before the land invasions, he said.
“Considering how long coffee has been produced in the country, we are in a sorry state and there is need for government to consider resuscitating it as it can earn the country millions in foreign currency annually,” Jori said.
Coffee was introduced in the country around 1890 for household consumption.
Its production was commercialised in 1960, with smallholder farming introduced at independence.
Production peaked in 1989 at 14 664 tonnes, but hit its lowest in 2010, with a paltry harvest of 208 tonnes.
Jori said although the sector is always battling droughts or pests and diseases when the rains are good, their biggest challenge was lack of investment.
“The sector is struggling to attract investment due to land tenure issues that followed the land re-distribution programme,” Jori said.
He also bemoaned loss of key knowledge about coffee farming that was lost when commercial farmers were booted out.
“Our farmers need to be tooled with critical knowledge and skills in coffee farming, if we are to turn around the sector,” Jori said.
He said low international prices of coffee were also undermining recovery efforts.
“Low international prices are leading to disinvestment in the sector by corporates whose land was not expropriated,” Jori said.