By Chimwemwe Mangazi:
Mzuzu Coffee Planters Cooperative Union, a grouping of smallholder coffee producers, has expressed worry over rising cases of coffee smuggling.
According to the union, some of its former members are reportedly selling the commodity to vendors who are smuggling it to neighbouring Tanzania.
The development, coupled with a mealy bug attack in some plantations is posing a threat to the union’s members.
Mzuzu Coffee Planters Cooperative Union Chief Executive Officer, Bernard Kaunda, said huge volumes of the commodity are reportedly smuggled each year.
Kaunda also lamented over the drop in prices on the international market, a development that, he said, would also affect profitability.
“In 2018, we saw the lowest prices on the international market which went as low as $1.21 per lb and continue to drop in 2019,” Kaunda said.
Figures provided show that the association sold 27 metric tonnes of coffee during the 2017/18 season, compared to 28 metric tonnes a season before.
Kaunda said the association expects coffee exports to hit 361 metric tonnes this season following a fall to 259 metric tonnes in the 2017/18 season.
“The estimate for 2019/20 is 420 metric tonnes. However, this may not be attained due to the possibility of erratic rains as well as the mealy bug attack, a pest very new in coffee but destructive if not put under control,” Kaunda said.
Coffee is among Malawi’s key export commodities. A recent study indicates that Malawi exports 1,000 metric tonnes of coffee a year. It is grown on 1,500 hectares of land, earning the country around $3 million (K2.1 billion).