Malawi’s producer of finest coffee, Mzuzu Coffee Planters Cooperative Union, is selling 56 percent of its commodity on Fairtrade terms from a paltry nine percent, thanks to a joint marketing partnership with Twin Trading, UK’s leading trading company.
Since 2009, Twin has been working with Mzuzu Coffee Planters Cooperative Union on a broad range of activities to enable smallholder farmers of high quality coffee sell their produce on secure, sustained and more remunerative terms.
The partnership has also helped to develop long-term business with buyers such as UK’s Sainsbury supermarkets and improve the cooperative’s export marketing capacity and knowhow through practical training and mentoring.
Mzuzu Coffee Planters Cooperative Union chief executive officer Harrison Kalua told Business News on Wednesday with the partnership in place, they plan to increase the crop’s output to 1 000 tones from the current 400 tones.
“As a result of the joint marketing partnership, we have also established links with cooperatives from 10 countries in Africa that produce coffee.
“Twin’s work with the Mzuzu coffee union has also transformed farming practices, adding value and improving coffee quality, as well as creating access to new markets for smallholder producers in the UK,” he said.
Over the years, Mzuzu coffee farmers have experienced productivity problems as a result of the dominant mono-crop estate-style system they have used to grow coffee.
This system is dependent on inorganic fertiliser, which is unpredictable in price and availability and does not provide shade for the coffee, control erosion or recycle farm waste to enhance fertility.
But Kalua believes the collaboration with Twin will result in the opening up of commercial farmers to increase coffee trees to one million from the current 4 500, a development which will push up the crop’s output.
The cooperative has been facing supply constraints despite being overwhelmed with coffee order from a number of buyers around the world.
“The challenge we have is not to do with buyers and markets because currently, we have 20 buyers from around the world willing to purchase our coffee but we cannot supply them with the commodity,” said Kalua, who is also chairperson of Coffee Association of Malawi (Camal).
He said the cooperative has engaged an extra gear to promote their specialty coffee, which has received acclaim from buyers.
Twin Trading in liaison with Finlay’s, Sainsbury and Comic Relief has created a consortium as part of the Department for International Development (DfID)-Frich initiative to support Mzuzu farmers to pilot a sustainable agriculture system to allow the farmer to continue producing high quality coffee.
Figures from Camal show that Malawi is this year expected to produce about 2 000 tones of the crop which will bring in foreign exchange in ranging from $10 million to $15 million.
He said this season [2012/13], Malawi is expected to produce about 2 000 tones of the crop which will bring in between $8 million and $15 million.