In terms of value, coffee is one of the world’s most important commodities.
Coffee is a vital crop for developing countries, providing vital foreign exchange earnings and an income for farmers. It is also an ideal crop for areas with poor infrastructure, as it is one of the few tropical horticultural crop products that can be stored for relatively long periods without perishing.
There are two main species of economic importance: Coffea canephora which produces coffee known commercially as Robusta, and Coffea arabica which produces Arabica.
Coffee is indigenous to the highlands of Ethiopia and the Boma plateau in the Sudan. Here, some 1 300 to 1 800 metres above sea level, coffee trees occur naturally. Today coffee is grown across the world.
Source: Tim Buckland; Schalk Schoeman (ARC-TSC), www.arc.agric.za/arc-itsc/Pages/Coffee-Information.aspx and http://dev.ico.org/documents/eb3603r1e.pdf
International business environment
There are three main coffee growing regions:
- Africa/Arabia – Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe
- Asia – India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam
- Central/South America – Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica and El Salvador
Brazil, Colombia and Ethiopia are the top Arabica producers, while Vietnam, Brazil and Indonesia are the top Robusta producers. Looking at Arabic and Robusta combined, the top five coffee producing countries are Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia and Ethiopia (USDA, 2021).
Some role players
- International Coffee Organisation (ICO) – www.ico.org. The website is a wealth of information.
- Eastern African Fine Coffees Association (EAFCA) – www.eafca.org
- Speciality Coffee Association of Southern Africa –www.scasa.co.za
- Inter African Coffee Organisation (IACO) – www.iaco-oiac.org/en
- TechnoServe www.technoserve.org
Links to many role players across the world can be found at www.coffeeresearch.org/links/organizations.htm.
- View the US Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service’s Coffee: World Markets and Trade page at www.fas.usda.gov/data/coffee-world-markets-and-trade. Its biannual report “includes data on U.S. and global trade, production, consumption and stocks, as well as analysis of developments affecting world trade in coffee”.
- Find the latest news at the Global Coffee Report – http://gcrmag.com
- Find the Rabobank report (2018) How Coffee Will Look Different in Ten Years at https://research.rabobank.com/far/en/sectors/beverages/How_Coffee_Will_Look_Different_in_Ten_Years.html
- Find the Coffee Market Reports at www.iandmsmith.com/coffee-market-report
- Find the blogs and news about coffee at www.iita.org, website of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
Coffee and Africa
- African countries import substantial amounts of coffee from Europe (including coffee that was grown in Africa!)
- Africa’s middle class, currently estimated at around 320 million, already constitutes a substantial market for African coffee. Africa therefore no longer needs to look elsewhere to sell its coffee.
- The development of an inter-African coffee value should be a great market opportunity for African producers.
- Coffee will be one of the flagship products to be traded under the African Continental Free Trade Area arrangement. Focus is required on how to attain the sustainable development goals, promotion of domestic consumption, development of capacity among smallholder producers to adopt a more entrepreneurial orientation, and to build, strengthen or help in the establishment of farmer associations or cooperatives.
Source: adapted from www.iaco-oiac.org/en/news/africas-challenge-creating-resilient-and-sustainable-coffee-value-chain
|Coffee and the Sky-Blue Continent
A KPMG report, Africa Arisen: The Blue-Sky Continent, back in 2014 showed that Africa produced and exported US$6 billion worth of coffee. The coffee was processed outside of the continent and sold for a total of US$100 billion. US$94 billion of the value is thus captured outside the continent.
Local business environment
South Africa imports almost all of its coffee. We do not produce more than 100 tonnes per annum (i.e. 0.4% of what we drink in South Africa). Importing coffee into RSA is currently a potentially lucrative business. When international prices increase, local producers could benefit significantly. However, the coffee trade is fraught with risk.
Although coffee will grow well in almost any frost free area with well drained soil, the best coffee producing areas in South Africa are the coastal areas of Southern KwaZulu-Natal, the Drakensberg escarpment of Mpumalanga, and Limpopo.
Farming coffee and exporting the raw bean is not seen as a viable option in this country, largely because it is a labour-intensive crop. There are, however, a number of farmers who have made coffee a profitable venture (see “Some coffee producers” heading down this page). Despite this, coffee farming looks to remain a smallish cottage industry that will rely on tourism, direct marketing and value adding to fill the necessary gaps.
Coffee, as one of the world’s most important commodities in terms of value, is an industry that could be developed and which could create jobs.
Sources: Tim Buckland; Schalk Schoeman (ARC-TSC) and a project proposal found at http://dev.ico.org/documents/eb3603r1e.pdf
A projected trend in the global consumption of coffee provides a very lucrative opportunity for South Africa to increase the production of coffee beans to meet both domestic and export demand. It is worth noting that some coffee bean producers in South Africa such as Beaver Creek are already exporting to countries like Japan, the United Kingdom (UK), the United States, Denmark and Germany. The potential to extract more value throughout the coffee value chain should continue to be explored by the agricultural sector.
Source: Gilberto Biacuana (see “Websites and publications” heading)
A SWOT analysis:
- The Agricultural Research Council’s Tropical and Subtropical Crops at Nelspruit still has significant capacity to carry out research for the region
- The ARC-TSC says coffee production creates more jobs than any other subtropical horticultural crop
- Coffee retail prices in RSA are relatively high. By value adding and marketing the product locally, the crop can still make money even at times when international prices are low due to an oversupply
- The raw bean industry is highly labour intensive
- The low selling price of raw beans and high production costs make it difficult to compete with some third world countries especially in terms of minimum wages
- South Africa is one of the few countries where coffee can be grown organically. Other coffee producing countries have an array of pests and diseases to cope with, while we are relatively fortunate in that regard.
- Most of RSA’s population of ±57 million are traditional tea drinkers; active promotion of coffee drinking could potentially be lucrative for many coffee traders, retailers and producers.
- The costs of production have increased significantly.
- Many skills regarding practical coffee production have been lost due to the closure of government farms.
- The white coffee stemborer (a pest) requires day to day vigilance
For more information, contact Schalk Schoeman at the ARC-TSC (Tropical and Subtropical Crops), 013 753 7000 or schalk [at] arc.agric.za.
- Find the “A History of South African Coffee Farming” article (2019) at www.coffeemagazine.co.za/blog/1/5635/a-history-of-south-african-coffee-farming.
- Insight Survey produces an annual SA Coffee Landscape Report. Find details at www.insightsurvey.co.za/2019-south-african-coffee-landscape-report
New farmer information (advice from two experts)
Because of the high level of technical skills required for this crop, a well co-ordinated larger scale co-operative type of operation above that of small-scale farming is recommended. The chances of this project succeeding would be heightened if it added value by roasting, marketing and distributing the end project.
Source: Tim Buckland (adapted from an email)
Schalk Schoeman’s advice to New Farmers:
- Start small and develop a niche market.
- Plant rust resistant dwarf or semi dwarf coffee varieties in the right area to cut production costs significantly.
- Consider organic coffee.
- Plant spacing between the rows should be about 3-3,5m; within the row use single plants ± 1m apart.
- Use micro sprayers instead of drip irrigation.
- Coffee does well with organic manure (compost and/or kraal manure) from time to time, if this is feasible and available (see #3).
- Mulch your coffee from the onset, it will help to conserve water and will increase organic content of soil.
- Budget for a tree replacement programme after year 8. Although pruning proves to be very effective, it is time consuming and could be more expensive than replanting.
- Start with a stemborer control programme at plant. This insect will give problems and most growers will only notice it after significant damage has already been done.
- Value adding of the product on the farm is essential.
- For marketing purposes, it is recommended that the coffee to has a “story” – this could be printed in briefly on the back of the container.
- Current success stories: see “Some coffee producers” under the companies involved heading.
Contact: Schalk Schoeman at Tel: 013 753 7000 or email schalk [at] arc.agric.za
- Find the articles written about farmers growing and marketing coffee under the “Websites and publications” heading further down this page.
National strategy and government contact
The Agri Processing Index (API) developed by the Western Cape Department of Agriculture in 2015 ranked the potential of some 130 different products, measuring employment potential, production performance and global market growth. Roasted Coffee and Coffee Substitutes was at number two on the Top 20 products list, showing the potential of backing this product.
Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic)
Agro-processing is the subsector which enjoys a substantial amount of support from the dtic.
Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DLRRD)
Find the Food Safety and Quality Assurance pages under the Divisions option at www.dalrrd.gov.za.
Training and research
Find the “Coffee training schools” heading in the Speciality Coffee Association of Southern Africa directory at https://scasa.co.za.
- ARC –Tropical and Subtropical Crops Schalk Schoeman Tel: 013 753 7000 schalk [at] arc.agric.za
- Ciro Coffee Academy www.ciro.co.za/training Offers Speciality Coffee Association courses
- PCI Agricultural Services www.pciagri.co.za Plantation crops (includes coffee) training
Some coffee producers
NOTE: Producers are mostly involved in the whole value chain, importing, roasting, selling – and serving! – coffee.
Tel: 084 432 6345 / 084 506 2239 www.assagaycoffeefarm.co.za
Austrian Coffee Estate (Mpumalanga)
Tel: 013 764 2897/ 083 306 4908
Beaver Creek Coffee
There are several videos about Beaver Creek Coffee Estate on YouTube. These include:
- Beaver Creek Coffee Estate Port Edward KwaZulu Natal South Africa (Africa Travel Channel)
- Beaver Creek Coffee Farm Visit May 2017 (Quaffee Coffee Channel)
- Harvest Season at Beaver Creek Coffee Farm (Beavercreekcoffee)
Sabie Valley Coffee
This is one grower identified in an SABC news report (2015) who is doing well in an industry that hasn’t really taken off. The key appears to be staff buy-in and all the value adds:
- Seedlings are produced and sold as ornamental trees to visitors.
- A gift shop offers “an interesting array of all things coffee”. This includes domestic to industrial coffee dispensing equipment and accessories.
- In-house barista training is available
- Coffee tours appointment are arranged
See the earlier reference to the Lindi Botha Farmer’s Weekly article “Coffee Farm: creating jobs and making a profit”. Regarding labour, five workers are required for every 2 ha in season, one permanent for every 3 ha throughout the year. Workers are paid per kilogram and are able to achieve the minimum wage “plus 50%” (Botha, 2019).
Coffee equipment, roasters, packers, distributors
- Africa Black https://africablack.co.za
- Africa Fresh Coffee www.africafreshcoffee.com
- Africa Roast ‘n Grind www.rngcoffee.co.za
- A J Products & CO www.ajproducts.co.za
- Aquaspresso www.aquaspresso.co.za
- AVI www.avi.co.za
- Back to Basics Tel: 011 472 1922
- Barnes Tea & Coffee Merchants www.barnestea.co.za
- Been There Coffee Company https://beanthere.co.za
- Brewfix https://brewfix.co.za coffee machine repairs
- Canna Coffee https://cannacoffee.co.za
- Caturra Coffee Company www.caturra-coffee.com
- Ciro Beverage Solutions www.ciro.co.za
- Clipper Coffee & Tea cc www.clipper.co.za
- Coffee Merchant www.coffeemerchant.co.za
- Coffee Roasting Company www.coffeecompany.co.za
- Coffee Solutions www.coffeesolutions.co.za
- Coffee-Tech Engineering http://coffee-tech.co.za
- Coffee Unplugged www.coffeeunplugged.co.za
- Colombo Tea & Coffee Company https://colombo.co.za
- Druid’s Garden https://druids.garden
- Espresso Concepts www.espressoconcepts.co.za
- Frontier Coffee www.frontiercoffee.co.za
- I & M Smith www.iandmsmith.com
- iKhofi www.ikhofi.co.za
- Kings Tea & Coffee http://kingsteacoffee.co.za
- KOLD SERVE https://koldserve.co.za
- LC Packaging http://lcpackaging.co.za
- Mainly Coffee http://mainlycoffee.co.za
- Masterton’s Tea & Coffee https://mastertonscoffee.co.za
- Miko Africa https://mikoafrica.co.za
- Nescafe www.nescafe.com/za
- Origin Coffee Roasting https://originroasting.co.za
- Peacock Gourmet Coffee & Exotic Teas www.peacockteaandcoffee.co.za
- Pierre Lotti https://pierrelotti.co.za
- Roast Master www.roastmaster.co.za
- Strictly Coffee www.strictlycoffee.co.za
- Sumatran Premium Coffee www.sumatran.co.za
- Tea & Coffee Distributors www.tea-coffee.co.za
- Tea and Coffee Emporium https://coffeeandtea.co.za
- TriBeCa www.tribeca.co.za
- Truth Coffee Roasting https://truth.coffee
- WM Cahn www.wmcahn.co.za
- Wiesenhof Coffees https://wcholdings.co.za
Websites and publications
Visit the websites listed earlier on this page.
Available on the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development website is “Coffee”, a production guideline. This includes notes on cultivation practices and post-harvest handling.
Call the ARC-TSC at 013 753 7000 or email infotsc [at] arc.agric.za for Production guidelines for Coffee (Anderson T. & Schoeman P.S.)
Order online at www.arc.agric.za, call 012 842 4017 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for the following publications, available from the ARC Agricultural Engineering: Agro-processingof Industrial Crops (chicory, coffee, sugar cane, tea).
The SADC Secretariat and German Development Corporation‘s Profiling of the Regional Agro-Processing Value Chains in the SADC Region (March 2019) includes a look at coffee.
Insight Survey. 2019. South African Coffee Industry Report. Available at www.insightsurvey.co.za/2019-south-african-coffee-landscape-report
Clowes R (ed.). 2015. Handbook for Sustainable Coffee Production in Malawi. Available at http://imanidevelopment.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Handbook-For-Sustainable-Coffee-Production-In-Malawi.pdf
www.coffeeandhealth.org – “from the institute for scientific information on coffee”
The website www.coffeeresearch.org is “dedicated to advancing coffee quality through education and science”.
- Du Toit M. 2021, November 17. “One of SA’s biggest avocado growers is on a coffee high”. Farmer’s Weekly. Available at www.farmersweekly.co.za/crops/field-crops/one-of-sas-biggest-avocado-growers-is-on-a-coffee-high/
- Du Toit M. 2021, August 31. “Why South Africa can, and should, grow more coffee”. Farmer’s Weekly. Available at www.pressreader.com/south-africa/farmers-weekly-south-africa/20210813/281556588887103
- Van Eeden D. 2021, May 25. “Coffee farming: 10 steps to starting up in SA”. Food for Mzansi. Available at www.foodformzansi.co.za/coffee-farming-10-steps-to-starting-up-in-sa/
- Du Toit M. 2021, August 13. “One of SA’s biggest avocado growers is on a coffee high”. Farmer’s Weekly, pp.44-47.
- Reporter. 2019, September 23. “Coffee co-operatives – every cup tells a story”. Bizcommunity. Available at www.bizcommunity.com/Article/196/162/195887.html
- Botha L. 2019, November 22. “Labour-intensive coffee farm prospers in Hazyview climate”. Farmer’s Weekly. Available at www.farmersweekly.co.za/crops/field-crops/labour-intensive-coffee-farm-prospers-in-hazyview-climate/
- Pines H. 2019, June 26. “Tips to Create a Business Plan For Your Coffee Farm”. Perfect Daily Grind. Available at www.perfectdailygrind.com/2019/06/tips-to-create-a-business-plan-for-your-coffee-farm/ . Find suggestions for similar articles on the page. These include “Coffee Farm Management: How to Determine Your Production Cost“, “Producers & Importers: How to Sell YOUR Coffee to Roasters” and “How to Improve Profits: 4 Strategies for Coffee Producers“.
- Cumming, D. & Schmidt, D. 2019, May 15. “A History of South African Coffee Farming”. Coffee Magazine. Available at www.coffeemagazine.co.za/blog/1/5635/a-history-of-south-african-coffee-farming
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- Read about the benefits of coffee at http://ecowatch.com/2014/11/07/health-benefits-coffee/. These include heart protecting, cleaning up the liver and increased longevity.
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