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Climate Change Affects Coffee Production 

By Leocadia Bongben

Farmers of the Northwest Cooperative Credit Union, NWCCU, have said that climate change is affecting coffee production in the region. Representing the farmers at the Experts Meeting on Geographical Indicators that ended in Yaounde from September 29, Mongwe Christopher Mbah, Manager, NWCCU, said the rainy season is now much longer than the dry season.

Climate change, he said, impacts on the farmers who can no longer plan their harvesting season besides the tendency of poor quality coffee, as a result of the fermentation during the drying process and lack of proper storage facilities. Mbah said though there is limited sunshine; farmers do not use dryers which makes the coffee from the region unique. He added that coffee from the lower regions of the northwest tastes differently while that from the highlands of Oku because of the time it takes for them to get ripe.

Explaining that coffee needs a lot of rainfall for it to mature gradually, he said that due to the longer rainy season, the coffee ripens faster and farmers are forced to harvest small quantities and there is a possibility of the coffee fermenting due to limited sunshine. He said the possibility of mixing dry coffee with that which is not properly dried in the process is high.

It is against this background that farmers are being sensitized to harvest the ripe coffee every time and make sure that the coffee is dried up to 11 percent humidity and only mix when all the coffee is uniformly dry. With the 2009/2010 season over, Mbah estimated production at about 450,000 lower than the 2009 season due to lack of financing from the bank. He insinuated that if the statistics are not tampered with, the northwest is the highest producer of Arabica coffee estimated at about 70 percent of the national production.

He expressed optimism that production is likely to be on the high side within the next three years, thanks to government support through seedlings from the research centres to farmers, training, the provision of basic farm tools and subsidized fertilizers to farmers, besides the farmers opening up new farms. 

In order to increase productivity per hectare, Mbah said the regenerative pruning technique was imported from Kenya and farmers trained. “If this is done better, 15 kg can be harvested from a coffee plant,” he added. Mbah indicated that aspects of the geographic indicators have already been implemented though coordination and proper supervision and control are needed.

He urged the stakeholders to ensure that this is not another white elephant project like the common code for the coffee community project. He said identifying coffee by region is a good marketing weapon as there are buyers who would want to know whether the coffee was grown under plantains, kola nut trees and would readily pay a premium price for it.

Vincent Fautrel from the Technical Centre for Cooperation Agriculture, said geographic indicators already adopted in Latin America, Columbia and Asia are meant to add value through a specific label and origin for the country to have premium and attract higher prices.
Geographic indicators in the form of labeling, enables a community of producers to have better chances of sharing profit throughout the value chain, Fautrel explained.

On the other hand, he said the trademark currently in use is beneficial only to companies and not the country and stressed that it takes a lot of time to put in place geographical indicators as legal issues have to be clearly defined.

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