Yemeni coffee, How we miss it! [Archives:2003/678/Last Page]

October 20 2003

Yasser Mohammed Al-Mayyasi
Coffee was considered of the most famous and popular agricultural products in the Yemeni history. And times came when the economy depended great deal over centuries on this product and its exporting to neighboring countries and to farther countries. It affects the economy and living standard positively as one of the major non-oil exports of this country.
During the 16th and 17th centuries A.D. Yemeni coffee marked its place in the world of coffee and the brand “Mokha Coffee” or Mocca as been termed in some places, was rating as the second best after the Brazilian coffee. The name was a result of Yemeni coffee being associated with the port of al-Makha via which it was used to be exported to countries all over the world.
During the ‘40s and the ‘50s statistics indicated that Yemen’s exports of coffee amounted to 12,000 tons yearly. This amount had retreated to only 7 tons in the ‘70s, which indicated the shifting of agricultural focus from coffee to other products. This decline was a result of a number of political, social and economic factors.
From the social and economic angles it was the migration of many Yemenis between 1960 and 1980 to the GCC and KSA. This has affected the lives of farmers and farming who depended on the money remitted by their sons and relatives who worked abroad and hence coffee plantation was not considered the main source of income, hence leading to deterioration in this industry.
Moreover, due to the same reason the expertise and farming skills in coffee planting was reduced and almost demolished because most of skillful people either migrated from the country or stopped working in this trade, and so the level of production was reduced as a consequence. Political-wise, instability and various crises that took place in the country since the ‘60s and until the mid of th ‘90s had their negative impact on agriculture. Where the state could not advance this field and did not improve the means and mechanisms of farming and marketing of products, an issue that requires close cooperation between the state and civilians to push it forward.
Coffee is grown in mountainous fields which range between 800 to 1800 meters above sea level and requires continuous irrigation for its growth.
There are various obstacles and difficulties in coffee plantation, one of the main of such difficulties is the illiterate and old fashioned farmers who work on this. Because they refuse or are ignorant about the latest and modern mechanisms of agriculture, and this is a drawback in their work. It is also due to the lack of expertise and skills, especially among young farmers because they could not inherit these skills from their fathers who migrated or discarded the trade. Moreover, pests and deadly epidemic diseases affecting coffee growing that need to be fought through chemicals and fertilizers have caused a great damage to this industry. All this is leading to the fact that brining back the old glory of Yemeni Cafe becomes a very difficult thing today and requires a lot of will, dedication and hard work.