THE DAILY GRIND

Tanzania 2014 | AGRICULTURE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Adolph Kumburu, Director General of the Tanzania Coffee Board, on increasing exports, branding, and Tanzania's unique coffee blends.

Adolph Kumburu
BIOGRAPHY
Adolph Kumburu is an Engineering graduate from the University of Dar es Salaam. He has over 24 years of experience in the Tanzanian coffee industry, and was involved in designing and implementing strategies to establish the Specialty Coffee segment, championing smallholder producers. Until 2007, he was Executive Director of the Association of Kilimanjaro Specialty Coffee Growers, and has also held the positions of Coffee Program Manager at TechnoServe, Chairman of the East African Fine Coffee Association, and Technical Manager of Operations at Mbinga Coffee Curing Co.

What powers did the Coffee Act of 2001 grant to the board?

The Coffee Board is a government institution that was established by Parliamentary Act No. 23 of 2001. Its basic priority was to ensure sector regulation in terms of coffee cultivation, processing, and trade. Monitoring of these three aspects makes sure of a defined means of crop production, which is governed by the rules of production. It takes care of quality issues and aims to secure volumes in terms of production. The second issue is to ensure that processing is also focused on market needs, which requires standardized processing. The third issue concerns marketing and trade, largely because more than 90% of the crop is exported. We have to know the destination; who is exporting it, and where it will go. This is so we can analyze consumer trends and behavior, while knowing how much we generate from the market.

How will Tanzania achieve its goal of increasing its coffee output to 80,000 tons by 2016, and what role do investors play in that growth?

In 2010, we created what we call a Coffee Sector Strategy, which lays out plans for the next 10 years. The strategy will end in 2021. It was made in collaboration with stakeholders in the sector, and we have set certain goals and milestones. In the first five years, which ends in 2016, we targeted to increase our production from 50,000 tons to 80,000 tons. Then, by 2021, we hope production will exceed 100,000 tons. We want to improve the quality of the coffee and the business environment, as well as expand the market. In terms of the volume increase, it will be achieved by ensuring that crops are improved through research. We have a national coffee research center here called the Tanzania Coffee Research Institute (TaCRI). TaCRI was set up in 2001 and by 2005 had already started to release some good varieties of coffee. The plants were crossbred to upgrade their strains. Productivity has to date almost doubled from the average of 300 grams to almost 600-700 grams. On the ground, it has been confirmed that our average production would rise from 350 kilograms to 1,000-1,500 kilograms per hectare, which is the target. Today, we have an estimated 200,000 hectares under coffee cultivation; we plan to increase this by 10,000 to 210,000 hectares within this timeframe. We have already involved all the growing regions and relevant government institutions in this strategy. Land expansion is the second part of the strategy to increase production. The third aspect takes into account the current business environment, whereby production is 90% realized by smallholder growers. Our third drive seeks to entice investors to coffee cultivation, and not only in the trading of produced coffee. In collaboration with government institutions and authorities, we have identified areas where investors can access land for coffee cultivation. For example, in 2011, one company was given 2,000 hectares in southern Tanzania, where there is reserve land. It has already started to plant coffee and is poised to commence production. Small owners will always seek government support to continue their business, whereas investors will go out on their own; you only encounter them when conducting trade. More private sector investment is the way ahead.

What does Tanzania bring to the table in terms of unique coffee varieties?

Tanzania is one of the top three quality coffee producers. Coffee quality is defined in two categories: one, the origin and the conditions of growing in that area, and two, the processing and handling. If you go to the source, Tanzania is among the three countries (the other two are Colombia and Kenya) that produce the best Arabica coffee. We have the opportunity to have the best Arabica and Colombian milds, which is usually used for blending with other Arabicas to improve their flavor. The Arabica coffee bean needs to have the pulp removed to prepare it for roasting. You can also sundry it to prepare for roasting. Preparations under wet processing (pulping) produces mild or washed Arabica coffee. The sun-dried coffee is called hard, or unwashed coffee. The washed is the best type because it is mild and attractive. It requires the right infrastructure on the ground during harvesting, however, so farmers can execute the washing process at wet mills. The equipment is used for removing the skin, fermenting, cleaning, and then drying the beans. We lacked this infrastructure for many years. When a farmer is preparing this alone, they pulp by hand. They need to have the correct cleaning water and drying facilities, which is a challenge for small farms. What we have done since 2001, under the new law, is decide that Tanzanian coffee should be fully washed to remain competitive with Colombia and Kenya. Investment in these wet mills and washing stations has been ongoing since then, and we are about halfway through the necessary requirements with about 450 mills throughout the country already installed.

“ Today, we have an estimated 200,000 hectares under coffee cultivation. "

What lies in the future for Tanzanian coffee?

Since 2012, we have been working with an organization in Geneva to establish a Tanzania intellectual property system for coffee so we can brand and protect it. We hope it will help to bring home the intrinsic value of this product. We have been challenged a few times when people travel around the world and see Kenyan or Colombian coffee, but not Tanzanian coffee. That is because we have not protected it. Most of the traders use our quality coffee to blend it with regular- or low-quality coffee so that it can be sold. To be protected, we have to change the way we promote our name in the market.

What could you say about public-private partnerships (PPP) in this sector?

The drive that started in 2010 has been very strong. Part of what is happening, which previously was not there, was the implementation of a PPP system. We have all the stakeholders, and coffee has a long value chain. We have different players at each of these levels, and sometimes it is a challenge to bring all of them together in a common place. We have managed to catch up and we meet as a national coffee forum to discuss the way forward. As a result of that, as of June 2013 (because the crop starts in September), we had already produced over 70,000 tons for the first time in 50 years, the average having been 50,000 tons, and also our highest year. We want to maintain this level and reach 100,000 tons by 2021. That is why we see our 2016 goal of 80,000 tons as achievable; we need less than 10,000 tons more from now on. This increase has resulted from working with the stakeholders to ensure increased volumes.