Ntaryike Divine Jr.
The 2014 farming season has unfurled against a backdrop of swelling despair for
Growers, dealers, experts and farmer organizations are all piling blame on faulty government policies dating back to the early 1990s and calling for renewed subventions to farmers.
"Our coffee is currently in very bad shape," says
Back then, the vastly fertile country was ranked 12fth among the world's biggest coffee growers. Today, it falteringly sits on the 31st position and experts fear the yields slumps could continue even further over the coming years.
Bad roads and a changing climate
Ngewou Thomas is a farmer and exporter in Nkongsamba, a colonial town in the Littoral region once known as the "
"A lot of coffee was abandoned in the farms because access roads were not maintained," says Thomas. "Elsewhere, soils are sufficiently old and the big farmers in the years gone by are all ageing out or dead and their children are leasing out the farms to banana producers and heading off to the cities."
Experts offer several other factors that contributed to the failures: longer rainy seasons provoked by climate change causing massive falling of leaves before pollination; costly inputs like fertilizers and pesticides; lack of mechanization; the absence of large-scale farming as well as alleged sidelining of coffee in the allocation of government technical support and grants.
The ongoing coffee production dips began with the global economic crisis of the mid-80s that provoked sharp price plunges on the world market. Across the major growing hubs in the western, coastal and southeastern parts of
Officials say rather than step up incentives to empower coffee growers weather the economic go-slow, the government blundered by freezing subventions, liberalizing the sector and fueling the downfall of cooperatives.
Blame falls on government policies
"If we are honest, then we should acknowledge the fact that government policies beginning in the 90s led to the situation we find ourselves in today," said Thomas.
Former trade and industry minister Patrice Mandeng Ambassa says, "Unfortunately, I was the last minister to have fixed prices for cocoa and coffee back then." He is now president of the
"After that total liberalization of the sector followed with the consequences being that the maintenance of basic infrastructure like roads stopped, the state stopped providing subventions. So, farmers suddenly found themselves with financial burdens they had not planned for."
The government appears to be responding positively. They are talking with Brazilian experts who could teach Cameroonian farmers their best practices.
In the meantime, the Council has announced it is disbursing 750 million FCFA - about
Optimism is on the horizon
"World demand for coffee is constantly on the rise," says Maledy, "and projections show that up to 2020 and 2025, demand will grow by 2.2 percent and so coffee must be produced.
"And the second-leading producers -
Elsewhere, farmers are saluting a decision by the
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