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Mambila Plateau : Quest for Nigeria’s coffee hub may just have begun

It has been established by agricultural economists that over 90 percent of the global Coffee/Tea production takes place in developing countries while consumption happens mainly in the industrialised economies. As Nigeria’s economy exits recession, KEHINDE OSASONA examines the possibility of taking comparative advantage of the agricultural sub-sector to jump – start the economy via diversification.
As world coffee and tea output continues to increase, Nigeria’s production continues to dwindle. According to Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) statistics garnered between 2010 and 2015 indicate that about N1.5 billion worth of coffee products were imported into Nigeria.
Analysts however believed that the price of coffee on the international market today makes it very attractive for export, especially for an economy urgently in need of foreign currency to fortify its value.
Last year, Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba state while commissioning a tea crusher plant in Mambilla plateau reiterated the need to start the exportation of coffee and tea in Nigeria.
He said : ‘’The coffee and tea grown on the Mambilla plateau is one of the highest quality in the world. With technical support, Mambilla coffee and tea farmers could add value to their products and bridge the gap. Aside that, they could supply raw – materials to the beverage industries in Nigeria.’’
Meet the Mambila Plateau; Nigeria’s fledging Coffee, Tea hub
Mambila Plateau is Nigeria’s northern continuation of the Bamenda Highlands of Cameroon with a range coordinates of 7 20 N 11 43 E. It is located in the Southern Eastern part of Taraba State. The climate of the plateau is comparatively cold with day time temperature of about 25 Centigrade thereby making it the coolest region in Nigeria. As a result of its high elevation with a relative humidity of about 15 percent during rainy season, the plateau experiences temperate weather condition suitable for vast coffee and tea production in large quantity. In addition, the Mambila Plateau with its low lush grasses vegetation has a very fertile land for other crops like Banana, Plantain, Pineapple, Cassava, Sweet and Irish Potatoes.

Can Nigeria produce Coffee and Tea for both domestic demand and exportation?
It has been confirmed statistically that over 2.25 billion cups of Coffee are consumed in the world daily. Despite the fact that Nigeria produces 2,400 tons yearly, global demand for Nigeria unroasted Coffee is still very high. Even though for obvious reasons Nigeria could not expand its market frontier in the global Coffee and Tea competitive market, in 2015 for instance Nigeria consumed 836 tons of Cofffee. This was contained in a research report carried out by Euromonitor International, a research firm. The research confirmed further that while the French drank 366,000 tons, France has just over a third of Nigeria’s population. Euromonitor therefore predicts that Nigeria will drink more than 1,000 tons of Coffee in 2020 (23 percent) higher than in 2015. Unfortunately, Nigeria recorded zero Coffee production in the first quarter of the same year (2015) in Nigeria.

Competing in the global Coffee,Tea billion Dollars earnings
The two most popular brand of Coffee mainly consumed world over has been the Coffee Arabica and Robusta brands. Report has it that Coffee buying across the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) landscape has increased almost $1 billion Dollars between 2014 and 2015. In the United State, total revenue of Coffee and snack shops industry between 2002 and 2016 alone grossed $32.46 billion Dollars. In the same vein, Coffee houses which make up just small sector of the vast food and drink industry earned $782 billion in 2016 while total Coffee turnover in the United Kingdom stood at $8n billion pounds sterling.
Nevertheless, while Kenya is the obvious leader on the continent which globally ranked her 3rd for producing around 300,000 tons on the average with an annual gross of between $1.1 to $1.45 billion with exportation to 56 countries as at the last count on a yearly basis, Uganda was reputed to have supply 9 percent of the world’s demand for Java producing about 1.6 million bags.
With current ranking of African producers of Coffee and Tea where Ethiopia is rated 39 percent, Cote d’ivore 13 percent, Uganda 23 percent, Kenya 5 percent, Morocco 6 percent, Tanzania 6 percent, Cameroon 3 percent, South Africa 6 percent while the rest of Africa including Nigeria produces the remaining 14 percent. The question has been; where is the place of Nigeria in all of these rankings? Also, can Nigeria Coffee farming trend changes from farming to export?

Taking a cue from Tanzania government
The most glaring challenge presently is how to enhance the Coffee and Tea industry in Nigeria to produce not just raw beans but to also export Coffee products and make it a source of hard currency like Tanzania which is already working on the modalities that will make the country Coffee penetrate into the South Africa markets for a start before extending its market to Europe and America.
Adolf Mkenda, Permanent Secretary of Tanzania Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment was quoted as saying : ‘’ We are loosing billions of Tanzania Shillings when selling raw Coffee abroad. A cup of Coffee in London and elsewhere in the world is much more expensive compared to what we have been selling. As a government, we are determined to change the trend by selling processed Coffee to benefit Coffee growers and all stakeholders in the value chain.’’

Tea, Coffee production Bill: Between implementation ad sustainability
Just few weeks ago, the Senate passed for second reading the bill seeking to establish a National Tea and Coffee Development Council for facilitation of Tea and Coffee production In Nigeria and by extension diversify the Nation’s economy. The sponsorer of the bill, Senator Yususf Abubakar (APC), Taraba Central said: ‘’ The bill, if passed will further increase revenue accruable to the government and boost the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the affected states that will be beneficiary of the bill.
The Director General (RMRDC), Dr Hussainni Doko Ibrahim had during a distribution exercise of about 5,000 Coffee and Tea seedlings to farmers and growers inTaraba state lamented that despite that we recorded zero percentage in Coffee production for the first four months of 2015 despite the fact that Coffee consumption by Nigerians has continue to increase.
‘’Nigeria has enormous potentials for Tea production especially in the Mambilla plateau, yet the total Tea production in Nigeria is not important in the global market. Government therefore is ready to support Tea and Coffee farmers with global best agronomical practices, improved seedlings and extension services in order to add value to local production.’’

10 percent Maputo declaration, 2018 agric budget. and development
The proposed budgetary allocation of N118.98 billion accrued to the agricultural sector has again been tagged as being grossly inadequate to drive the agricultural policy of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, let alone trickle down, to affect the other agricultural Sub – sectors.
An agricultural analyst and Tree crop farmer, Olusegun Onaolapo while criticizing the budget said that apart from the fact that the amount accrued in the proposed 2018 budget is slightly better compare to the paltry N92 billion naira expended in 2017, the provision in the 2018 budget for agriculture clearly violated the 2003 Maputo accord signed in Mozambique, where countries of Africa origin agreed to combat food security by expending ten (10%) of their total budget on agriculture. Nigeria had by this proposal failed in its diversification plans. Onaolapo observed that Nigeria and some other African countries has continued to defy the Food and Agriculture (FAO) warning that hunger occasioned by famine is imminent across Africa and Sub-sahara region.
‘’I gather that Coffee and Tea farmers under the aegis of (National Coffee and Tea Association of Nigeria (NACTAN), in Taraba and fifteen other producing states abandoned their farms in droves sometimes ago citing lack of exotic seeds, poor pricing and market situation as bane of their underdevelopment. The question is; can’t Nestle Nigeria renowned for processing and utilizing Coffee and Tea come into the picture by forming Coffee growers into clusters?.’’ he quipped.

 

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