Coffee research network for Africa
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CTA. 1992. Coffee research network for Africa. Spore 41. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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CTA, together with the Inter-African Coffee Organization (IACO), organized a seminar on Promoting Research on the Productivity and the Quality of Coffee in Africa. This meeting was held in Lisbon from 22-26 June 1992
Coffee exports from developing to developed countries are second in value only to oil exports. For several African countries coffee is the major export crop; in recent years it has also been the most important cash crop for African farmers as a whole. But African coffee producers are suffering more than most from the lowest world prices in 22 years, and prices for some African robustas are further depressed because of their poor quality. In addition, African productivity is lower than it need be and this further erodes profit margins for producers. Both national governments and individual farmers regard the current situation as a crisis. To survive and flourish, the African coffee industry will have to make changes. In recognition of this CTA, together with the Inter-African Coffee Organization (IACO), organized a seminar on Promoting Research on the Productivity and the Quality of Coffee in Africa. This meeting was held in Lisbon from 22-26 June and was hosted by the Portuguese Government. Whilst meetings of the International Coffee Organization in London discussed the possibility of establishing a new coffee agreement as a means of stabilizing prices, the Lisbon seminar reviewed practical options that would enable African growers to win back their share of the market and to develop more profitable production systems. Two speakers outlined some of the difficulties and opportunities that exist. Dr C J Rodrigues Junior, Director of the Coffee Rust Research Centre at Obeiras, near Lisbon, pointed out that whereas Africa has one-third of the world acreage in coffee, it produces only one-fifth of the world total. The causes of this low productivity were then examined in some detail by Professor RenT Coste, who gave the keynote address to the seminar. Professor Coste started his career in coffee in Cameroon 60 years ago and is recognized as a world authority on the crop. Traditional systems of coffee production in Cote d'lvoire, Africa's largest producing country, give average yields of 150 to 200 kg/ha, while 'improved' systems can give yields of up to 300 or 400 kg/ha. Research in Cote d'lvoire, Togo and Cameroon has shown that yields of up to 900 to 1300 kg/ha can be achieved by introducing new agronomic practices: the cutting back of coffee bushes every five years, the regular removal of suckers, and the use of mineral fertilizers. All of these practices are costeffective. Fertilizers applied at 200kg/ha can offer yield increases of 500 to 1500 kg/ ha, depending on soil and climatic factors, whilst the thinning out of suckers can result in a 700 kg/ha increase in production, which more than pays for the 40 extra man-days of labour required. Stumping, usually looked upon as labour-intensive drudgery, only requires 20 extra man-days every five years, yet it can result in a yield increase of about 300 kg/ha/year. In response to low prices, some African farmers are abandoning coffee. Between 1989-90 and 1990-91 worldwide production of coffee declined 4% but African production dropped by 10-12%. This is viewed as an alarming trend by those countries dependent on coffee export revenue. However, Professor Coste suggested that there might be benefits in reducing the acreage devoted to coffee in order to grow muchneeded food crops; furthermore, this need not result in reduced coffee production. If yields could be raised from an average of 200kg/ha to 800 kg/ha, 75% of the land area presently under coffee could be released for growing food crops. But this could only be achieved by applying research results through improved extension, Professor Coste concluded. There are promising signs that genetically resistant varieties of coffee will increasingly help to control the major diseases, including coffee leaf rust and coffee berry disease. Kenya has developed the variety Ruiru 11, which shows a good level of resistance while the Portuguese Coffee Rust Research Centre has developed disease resistant varieties from crosses based on Hybrido timor, a rust resistant coffee species from East Timor, which has also shown promising resistance to coffee berry disease. In East Africa the main production is of arabica coffee, with Uganda the only major producer of robusta. It would seem that East African producers have developed production systems and maintained quality standards that West African producers would like to study and emulate. Professor Coste refered to Kenya as 'an example of what is feasible in coffee growing thanks to welladapted, national organization, proper technical supervision for the planters, active and integrated support for research, all underpinned by a very strict, quality based, policy. ' CTA was asked by seminar participants to assist with exchange visits between West and East Africa to encourage the exchange of ideas, techniques and systems. CTA will also assist with the setting up of an inter-African research network, the Research Network for the Improvement of Coffee in Africa (RNICA). The decision to establish RNICA was one of the practical outcomes of the seminar. Its initial stages will be supervised by M N Coulibaly (C(te d'lvoire), Dr W Opile (Kenya), M P Mbondji (Cameroon) and Mr H Ngarbarino (Uganda). RNICA will be based initially at the headquarters of IACO in Abidjan, Cote d'lvoire. More details of the network are available from IACO or from CTA. IACO BP V210, Abidjan, COTE D'IVOIRE
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