Coffee life cycle

MACEFCOOP farmers grow only coffee is Robusta coffee, which because of its intense taste and high caffeine content is used in roast and ground blends with Arabica and instant coffees. MACEFCOOP coffee is used in Cafédirect 5065 brand.

Robusta coffee is more resistant to pest and disease attack than Arabica and the MACEFCOOP coffee is grown without the use of any chemicals. A group of farmers in the Obang Section are undergoing organic conversion and some of the coffee produced in 2005-06 season should be organically certified. Robusta coffee constitutes 85% of the Cameroon production.


Coffee farmers of Obang Section (new organic conversion area); click to see larger image.

Coffee cultivation


The Coffee Bean

Coffee growing is well-suited to the MACEFCOOP area's climate and terrain.

Coffee can be produced commercially from sea level to more than 6,000 feet, the better quality Arabica varieties being produced at higher altitudes. The hinterland in the MACEFCOOP area is suitable for Robusta coffee. All MACEFCOOP coffee is "organically by default" but the certification process is expensive and requires detailed Internal Control Systems to be established; if the certification process for Obang Section is achieved then the area of certified organic production will be increased each year.

New planting is carried out during the rainy season. Seedlings that have been raised in nurseries are transplanted to field locations with adequate shade. Seedlings begin flowering after 2 -3 years, with white coffee flowers, green berries, and ripe red cherries often coexisting on the same tree. Full maturity and maximum yielding is not achieved until the trees are 5 years old.


farming coffee plants

Coffee farms are fairly low maintenance, although there are seasonal peak labour requirements, this allows them to be located away from the farmer's home. Food crops are grown on land close to the home. A typical farm size is 1-hectare though 2 hectares; some members have farms that are 10 ha and these will employ labour to assist in the upkeep and harvest.

Pest and disease control

Coffee in the MACEFCOOP area is not seriously affected by diseases or insect pests.

One pest, of localised importance, is the West African coffee borer: Bixadus sierricola. Coffee is just one of a range of host trees for the borer, hence the localised importance.

Harvesting

The cycle for robusta coffee, from flower to mature cherry is 9 - 10 months. The start of harvesting corresponds with the early part of the dry season: the months of November through to February are generally drier than the other months of the year.


coffee tree

Only fully ripe cherries are harvested;. This requires selective harvesting. During the harvest period, robusta coffee is harvested every 10-15 days. Though this method is labour intensive, by harvesting only ripe cherries, a better quality coffee is obtained.

coffee cherries

Each coffee cherry usually contains 2 coffee beans, covered by a silvery skin and parchment (when, occasionally, there is only one bean it is known as a peaberry). Each robusta tree produces about 1 - 2 kg of green coffee a year (about twice as much as arabica trees) from about 2,500 cherries and from this is derived about 500 gm of roasted coffee.

When manually harvesting, the farmer hangs a bag around the neck or spreads a cloth or tarpaulin under the coffee tree to collect the harvested cherries. These methods of collection keep the hands free to harvest only the ripe cherries.

Drying

Processing influences the coffee flavour and needs to be carried out carefully. MACEFCOOP produces unwashed coffee; the cherries are spread in the sun on patios or drying mats to dry. To prevent fermentation, the layer of drying cherries must be kept quite shallow and even.

It is raked and turned several times a day to prevent fermentation and discoloration, and the beans dry in one to two weeks. Care is taken to avoid contamination and any possibility of the coffee beans becoming wet. If rain threatnes, the coffee is covered or collected into bags and stored under shelter.

Hulling removes the dried husk, parchment, and silver skin in preparation for sorting and grading. This unwashed coffee produces a more distinct flavour and heavy body.

...cofee product-line diagram ...

Bagging and storage

When fully dry, the coffee is transported to the central mill in Mamfé and hulled, often in the presence of the farmer.

Hulling

All milling takes place in Mamfé. Farmers will normally be present for the milling, after which they are paid for the weight of hulled coffee. A receipt is given for the full amount but the farmer may initially receive only a part-payment, depending on the cash-flow situation.

Hulling starts in mid-February and continues until June / July.


MACEFCOOP coffee hulling plant in Mamfé

Winnowing, which is sorting using a current of air to separate abnormally heavy or light beans, takes place after the hulling process. The beans then pass through sieves to sort the beans by size. The final stage of the process is hand-sorting of coffee intended for export; this removes all defective beans to produce a uniform and high quality coffee.

green, unroasted coffee beans

Click to see: stages of coffee growing and production within MACEFCOOP

Export

When sufficient hulled coffee has been accumulated to fulfil a contract, the coffee is transported to Douala, where MACEFCOOP has arrangements to utilse the facilities of SDV (Scac Delmas Vieljeux), a Bolloré transportation and freight handling subsidiary. This may include passing the coffee through an electronic sorting machine, re-bagging and weighing. Pre-shipment samples are sent to the client for a final assessment of suitability. The bags are then packed into a container and loaded onto a ship.

MACEFCOOP coffee is exported to meet buyers' requirements in any month between May and September.

Two-thirds of MACEFCOOP coffee is exported and all of this export coffee goes to Fairtrade buyers. Robusta is currently being sold under Fairtrade terms for $0.96 per lb. plus a $0.05/lb premium.

Farmers are guaranteed a minimum Fairtrade price of $0.96/pound FOB for their Robusta coffee. If the world price rises above this guaranteed minimum price, farmers will be paid the world market price plus the $0.05/pound premium.

coffee cup