Malawi can barely meet coffee demand on the international market due to low production ,according to Mzuzu Coffee Planters Cooperative Union Limited.
Mzuzu Coffee, which is certified environmentally friendly, is much-sought after bean by international buyers.
However, the shortfall in supply means Malawi is losing out on foreign exchange earnings.
In an interview, Mzuzu Coffee Planters Cooperative managing director Harrison Kalua said the country is expected to produce and export 1 200 metric tonnes (MT) of coffee beans by the end of this year compared to the previous season’s 2 000 MT.
Said Kalua: “But due to climate change, growers had challenges to produce more coffee as the crop requires more water.”
Malawi is heavily dependent on rain-fed agriculture.
The development comes at a time when other cash crops such as tobacco, tea and sugar have performed poorly on the market this season.
Annually, coffee brings in about $8 million (K4.4 billion) and $15 million (K8.4 billion).
Kalua said although production has been poor Malawi has profited from a surge in global coffee demand brought by erratic supply.
Available figures show that there has been a downward trend in Malawi coffee bean production every year since 1991 when production peaked at 7 720 MT of coffee beans.
Apart from climate change, coffee is suited to certain climates and altitudes, limiting its potential to only 27 000 hectares (ha) in Malawi, according to the land suitability index.
Despite smiling with good prices this year, Kalua said coffee growers have been hit hard by the local currency’s instability as they have an exchange gain when exporting, but pay more when importing packaging materials.
According to Coffee Association of Malawi (Camal) statistics, in September production slightly improved as the country exported 375 800 kilogrammes (kg) of main grade coffee.
Northern Region has the biggest coffee cooperative in the country and coffee from Mzuzu Coffee Planters Cooperative Union was voted as the best in the country.
Mzuzu Coffee Planters Cooperative was also named this year’s winners of National Taste Of Harvest at a competition held in Blantyre recently.
“So far, our coffee, Mzuzu Coffee, which has produced 450 MT this year is benefiting from fair trade through guaranteed price.
“There is minimum floor price for all fair trade coffee when the New York City futures price is low. The minimum is $1.40 lb FOB,” he said.
Kalua said the premium realised is used to carry out communal projects which include construction of bridges, kitchens, toilets, construction of drying tables and drying trays. n