Coffee consumption in Nigeria increased by more than 20% between 2010 and 2015 and it is expected that Nigerians will consume more than 1,000 tons of coffee in 2020. Despite the upward trend in coffee consumption, production in the country remains low. Removing barriers to coffee production is key to sustainable farming and production that will not only create decent livelihoods, but also generate an alternative way of diversifying the economy.
International Market Prices and Coffee Yields
One of the major issues in sustainable coffee production is the international market prices of the commodity. Although this factor is beyond the control of farmers, boosting farm yields can offset the fluctuations in prices.
Unfortunately, to increase harvests, farmers must plant high yielding seedlings and apply fertilisers which are expensive and often unaffordable. Another barrier to sustainable coffee farming is the low adoption rate of new technologies. There is reliance on unproductive and low-yielding varieties that affect production.
Lack of Support Services and Inadequate Marketing Channels
Moreover, there is little if not absent support services for small coffee farmers. According to an FAO Report, the government of Nigeria is of the view that agriculture is a private sector activity with the government providing largely support roles.
Given the low crop yields, poor pricing, and undeveloped marketing channels, farmers are forced to look for other economic activities to support themselves and their families. They shift to other cash generating crops, abandon their farms or move to more lucrative sectors such as the oil or mining industry.
Farmers’ Organisations to Secure Financing, Better Prices, and Markets
Since much of coffee farms are small holdings, it would make sense for them to organise to benefit from agricultural inputs, funds, marketing or risk management services. When united, farmers’ organisations are in better positions to access inputs, finance, and other services. For example, farmers can learn the newest post-harvest technologies, improve and diversify products, and develop better marketing strategies for coffee such as including local variants in subscription boxes while the government can put a price control system to assure farmers of decent prices for their crop.
If coffee farming was to be sustainable, attracting new and young talents to the sector is imperative. The average age of farmers in Africa is 60 years according to the ICO despite the predominance of young people in the continent. They are discouraged from taking up coffee farming as they don’t see a future for themselves in agriculture.
By Cassandra Ally