Itumpi PB – Tanzania
Itumpi Agricultural Marketing Cooperative Society (Itumpi AMCOS) first formed in December of 1983, under the Tanzania Cooperative act. After regulatory changes forced the group to dissolve in 2018, the group was transformed into the Itumpi AMCOS. Today, the AMCOS combines produce from its 174 members from the villages surrounding farms.
Located at around 70km from the Zambia border sits the village of Itumpi; one of 175 villages that makeup Mbozi District. Around a third of households in Itumpi produce coffee as one of their primary sources of income, with many producers learning to grow the crop from their parents and grandparents. Although an important source of income, production in the region tends to be primarily small scale farming. Households in the region will on average own just 500 to 1000 coffee trees; rarely totaling more than 5 hectares in size and often as small as a single hectare. The majority of farmers keep one or two pigs or cows and some poultry to support their income and provide sustenance. In addition to coffee, many grow maize, peanuts and beans; amongst other cash crops. As well as providing a second source of income, produce such as maize provides useful by-products like mulch for the coffee trees; locking in moisture on the high sloped contour farms. Similarly, the primary fertilizer for many farms in the region is manure from livestock, mixed with small amounts of NPK (known as Yara Java).
Pruning is generally conducted twice a year during the harvest cycle. Healthy trees will normally receive only light pruning, whilst unhealthy trees are heavily cut back to stimulate growth. When a coffee tree is no longer producing its desired quota, the tree will be cut right back and stumped; focusing on one side to allow new shoots to grow from the other. Primary varieties include Kent, Bourbon as well as other local varieties, with coffee seedlings and seeds distributed and shared between local farmers and neighbors.
This lot from Itumpi AMCOS is primarily made from partially home processed coffee, with cherry hand-harvested and pre-sorted before being delivered to the CPU to be pulped. All farmers who are a part of the Itumpi AMCOS have been trained to make sure the coffee cherry delivered to the Itumpi AMCOS’ central processing unit (CPU) is up to standard.
The coffee cherry is selectively handpicked by the family at each farm. Once the day of picking is complete, processing will begin by separating any under/ overripe cherry, along with any foreign matter such as sticks or gravel. Next, the coffee cherry is delivered to the CPU to be pulped: removing the outer layer of fruit. Typically, the cherries are picked, sorted and pulped all in the same day, with processing conducted in the evening after the daily picking is complete. Next, the coffee is placed into fermentation tanks to remove the remaining mucilage. Here, the beans will remain for 2-3 days depending on the atmospheric temperature. Once fermentation is complete, beans are washed in cool clean water to remove mucilage as well as any floaters.
Once clean, beans are taken to the raised beds to be dried. Here the parchment coffee is spread across the raised beds and turned regularly to ensure an even dry. The tables are covered at the high sun (noon) so that the beans are not scorched, as well as when it rains to prevent re-wetting. During the night, the coffee is also covered with polythene to prevent the build-up of any moisture. The process of drying will typically take anywhere between 9 to 12 days; with beans only removed once the moisture content has reached 11% or lower. Once dried, parchment coffee is bagged before making its way to the dry mill to be prepped, ready for export.
This coffee has been graded ‘PB’ – or peaberry. Peaberry coffee is a naturally occurring mutation present in Arabica coffee varieties, where only one bean is present inside of the coffee cherry instead of two. Peaberries normally are the smallest bean size, after being graded at the dry mill.
Itumpi AMCOS is currently facing a number of difficulties. One of the primary challenges facing the group is the high cost of inputs needed to farm the land, making the cost of production expensive. Combined with the low market price for coffee, coffee farming in the region is becoming unprofitable. Along with the difficulties relating to the cost of farming, the association is also facing a new battle; brought on by climate change. With inadequate rains and longer dry days, the reduced yield is now exacerbating existing challenges for Itumpi AMCOS and the wider Mbozi District.