Bar a handful of peaks and troughs, the Nigerian coffee sector has been on a steady downward trajectory since the mid-1960s. From producing nearly 100,000 bags of fresh beans in 1964, the West African country has exported less and less year on year. Hope sprung eternal in the late-1980s and through into the early-1990s when harvests began to rally, but soon the rot set in and the descending path opened up once more.
Now it can’t get much worse: According to one report, released by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Nigeria produced no coffee for the export market in the first four months of this year.
This is at odds somewhat from statements made by people within the industry who have suggested that demand for Nigerian coffee is relatively high at the moment.
So what gives?
“There was a time the government said it was launching the coffee council organisation and operators in the sector were invited to meet with the minister [only] to get there and be told that the minister had travelled abroad,” says Ibrahim Sadiq, the President of the Coffee and Tea Growers Association of Nigeria.
It’s clear that Sadiq lays the blame at the feet of the government who he claims has abandoned the industry, leaving it to flat line.
“All our investment in the sector has gone down the drain,” he continued.
On a global scale, Nigeria was very much a minority player in a market dominated by the giants of Brazil, Vietnam and Colombia, not to mention other African countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya, but Sadiq believes that with the current demand for speciality coffee, Nigerian coffee is viable on the world stage.
There were, however, other reasons put forwards for this stagnation in supply. Speaking on this issue Muda Yusuf, of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce, explained that the desire to grow coffee was simply non-existent:
“Nigeria is known to be a major producer of export crops like cocoa, palm produce and cassava. Coffee is just at the very bottom of the ladder.”
Whatever the reasons, this is sure to be a blow to the burgeoning coffee retail sector in the country that wants to champion locally sourced coffee.
Here’s to hoping for a new dawn.