South Sudan’s coffee market really kicked off in 2011 when Nestle’s Nespresso brand and Technoserve began working directly with local farmers to revive high-quality coffee production in the region.
It was an effort that greatly helped the world’s youngest country’s attempts to diversify an economy which was singly concentrated on oil exports.
United States Agency for International Development (USAID) had in April of this year offered to invest $3.18 million for the budding coffee market over the course of three years.
In the time since Nespresso integrated itself into South Sudan’s coffee market, over 700 farmers were integrated into the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality Program, which provides support, training and technical assistance to improve sustainability and productivity, while maintaining the highest quality coffee.
Nespresso also established South Sudan’s first wet mills to process coffee cherries into coffee beans and the first coffee export was sold as a Nespresso limited-edition in France last year.
The laudable investments by the coffee brand Nespresso was not expected to deliver any profit for several years to come but the brand aimed to triple coffee incomes and improve household resilience in the country that had just been rising from the throes of war.
It gave a projection that by 2019, the programme would have trained 1,500 South Sudanese farmers, of whom at least 25% would be women, and it would also have helped establish nine cooperative-owned wet mills.
South Sudan’s Coffee Market Temporarily Suspended
All the great dreams for South Sudan’s coffee market have, however, come to a screeching halt as Nespresso suspended its operations in the country earlier this week. Nespresso spokeswoman Jacquelyn Campo confirmed a report in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on Tuesday, saying;
“We had to temporarily suspend our operations in the country. It is the third time this happened since we started working there, … The situation has deteriorated and is very difficult at the moment.”
The country is once again caught up in violence which has spread to Central Equatoria in the south of the country. Campo said Nespresso had invested over $2.5 million in the project and had so far trained 731 South Sudanese coffee farmers.
She also said that the company’s partner in the efforts, TechnoServe, will launch a radio programme to remotely train coffee farmers at the end of this month. Continuing, she said:
“The next harvest starts at the end of October, beginning of November. At the moment, we cannot project what the future will bring.”
The loss of the progress made by South Sudan’s coffee market will have a devastating effect on the country’s already poor economy and still an end of the conflict does not seem to be in sight.