Better prospects for coffee


The decision by the Coffee Growers Association to go it alone instead of having the crop marketed by the Grain marketing Board, as has been the case all along, should be speeded up if the farmers are to reap immediate benefits.

The farmers are complaining that prices fell by 30 percent in the 1991-92 marketing season resulting in losses of over $16 million. The association also blames the GMB for being overstaffed. This overstaffing resulted in costs rising from 3.6 percent in 1986 to 35 percent this season.

Although the farmers are only expecting 4 500 tonnes of coffee this season, at the most, they could reap better rewards by going independent. Sales held in November raised an average price of $412 per 50 kg bag. Farmers could, in fact, get could higher prices than this.

The Insider reported earlier this year that Zimbabwean coffee growers were losing out by having their crop sold by the GMB because Latin American and African farmers had arranged an agreement to by-pass existing middlemen to make direct sales to the international market. Through the agreement, the farmers, who formed an organisation called small Scale Farmers’ Cooperative, hope to almost double the revenue from crop sales.

While market prices at the time were around 80 US cents a pound, the deal signed by the farmers was guaranteed to bring in returns of between US$1,20 and US$1,50 a pound. The farmers are collaborating with “fair trading organisations” which include Oxfam Trading, Equal Exchange, Tradecraft and Twin Trading.

Through this arrangement Zimbabwean farmers could get as much as $6 to $7.50 a pound for their coffee instead of the present $3.74. Moreover, should they export the coffee they will have direct access to foreign currency instead of it going through the GMB. This will in turn mean easier access to imported inputs that they might require.

With the growing thrust towards deregulation, it should not be too difficult for the coffee growers to be granted permission to go ahead. GMB chief executive Renson Gasela has already indicated that his organisation is not opposed to the privatisation. On the other hand, the going could be tough because Gasela stressed that the GMB will not be “bulldozed at the whim of a few growers through unsubstantiated statements to make half-baked decisions to the detriment of the entire industry”.


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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