Martin Kadzere Senior Business Reporter
NESTLE Zimbabwe is looking at reviving coffee estates in the Eastern Highlands through contracting small-scale farmers, sources familiar with the development have said.
The company, a unit of the world’s largest food and beverage firm, Swiss-based Nestle Global, is looking into the wider scope of the re-development of the coffee industry in Zimbabwe.
“Coffee fits well into a wider range of Nestle products and it is an area that Nestle Zimbabwe is looking at; possibly reviving the estates in the eastern highlands,” said one source.
“As such, some preliminary studies are being done; obviously to determine the model that could be used to resuscitate the industry. It is a project that has involvement of other stakeholders such as the Agriculture Marketing Authority and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.”
Nestle Zimbabwe spokesperson Mr Farai Munetsi had not responded to questions sent to him by the time of going to print yesterday. The country used to be the home of Africa’s richest coffee belts, as climatic conditions favored production of the high value crop.
The Eastern Highlands regions of Chipinge, Chimanimani, Honde Valley, Mutare and Mutasa used to house a number of plantations famous for super high-quality coffee, slowly sun-dried with deep fruity flavours.
In the ‘90s, Zimbabwean coffee was exported to high price markets such as the UK, US, Japan and Netherlands.
At peak, the country produced 14 664 tonnes of the commodity, in the 90’s, according to a study by the United States Agency for International Development, but in recent years production levels have gone down to below 500 tonnes.
Three years ago, stakeholders came up with a medium term plan that sought to revive coffee production in the country, targeting to boost income for over 50 000 farmers. Funding, it is reported, was to come from both the private sector and foreign investors.
It was hoped that the new strategy — which would involve the continued maintenance of existing plantations, the procurement of around 11 500 acres of new land for coffee production and developing current infrastructure — would revitalise the industry.
But after a number of successive droughts, poor irrigation infrastructure and inadequate funding; combined with a lack of general expertise in the sector following agrarian reform, Zimbabwe has seen production of coffee significantly declining.
At some point, the crop, the world’s second most traded commodity, used to be the country’s fifth largest foreign currency earner, according a report by the World Coffee Press.