AGRICULTURAL Niche market Dip your foot, in coffee maybe? Continuing with our niche farming series, this edition of Scenario explores coffee farming as a possible market for South African farmers. By Kefiloe Manthata C offee culture is on the rise in South Africa and with this, coffee shops are sprouting up all over the place. Now is quite possibly the best time for South African farmers to take advantage of the growing trend and tap into this seldomly explored market. Currently, only a handful of farmers produce coffee locally. Nation in Conversation recently paid a visit to one such farmer, Tim Buckland, owner of Sabie Valley Coffee in White River, Mpumalanga. For Buckland, the decision to venture into coffee was an instinctive one. “My interest in coffee was born out of me living on a coffee farm in the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe in the seventies. When I decided to get out of the rat race and pursue something different, coffee seemed like the obvious choice for me.” Coffee production in South Africa has a bit of a complex history. In the past, the labour intensive industry did not fare well in the country due to high labour costs and plunging international prices. The recent upsurge in coffee culture, however, creates a demand for premium coffee beans that opens up a gap in the market and makes it it worthwhile for farmers to explore the industry again. Despite the increase in demand, South Africa does not produce enough coffee yet to satisfy the local market. Tim and Kim Buckland, the owners of Sabie Valley Coffee, are involved in the day to running of the coffee plantation in White River, Mpumalanga. 38 SENWES SCENARIO | WINTER 2018 Roasting to order. There are two types of coffee plants, Coffea Arabica and Coffea Robusta. Arabica makes a flavourful, full-bodied coffee that is sharp in taste with a rather low caffeine content, while Robusta has a much higher caffeine content, and is stronger in character. The coffee plant is an evergreen shrub that produces tropical fruit (berries). The fruit is the most essen- tial part of the plant because embedded inside the fruit, are two seeds which will later be dried and ground to produce the much loved beverage. Because there are no machines that can pick the coffee berries effectively, coffee farming requires a relatively large labour force and is very time consuming. Coffee farming is perfect for South African climate conditions as the crop can survive very well in moderate to high temperatures. It is. however, very sensitive to water shortages so irrigation would be vital in cases of rainfall shortages. Although the plant has been proven to grow well in many different types of soil, sandy loam is the most ideal. Coffee also has very high nutrient demands and a thorough soil anal- ysis (p 14) is needed before planting can begin. There is also room in the coffee value chain for those who do not have the manpower or resources to farm coffee. Along with bean farming, the processing of coffee beans, including roasting and grinding as well as the manufacturing of instant coffee, are other areas that can be explored. To watch the full episode, go to http://fwd2.co/coffee.