Following a bumper coffee harvest, Yei River has doubled production and is preparing to export around 40 metric tons of coffee to Sweden for resale in international markets, promising the revival of a historic industry.
Yei River authorities have been quietly pursuing initiatives aimed at improving the skills of the hundreds of coffee growers employed in its local cooperatives.
They have also been successful in attracting sustained foreign direct investment, most notably from the multi-national coffee company Nespresso. In collaboration with TechoServe, a non-profit organisation specialising in nurturing industries in developing countries, Nespresso has set up several wet mills which improve the quality of processed coffee beans. Consequently, Yei River has seen a dramatic increase in productivity.
According to Edmond Gogo, Assistant Commissioner for Agriculture in Yei River, the season was further boosted by favourable weather. The net result was more than double the amount of processed coffee than was produced the previous year available for export to international markets.
Forty metric tons of the Robusta beans, a hardier and easier to grow plant, can sell for around 70,000 USD in international markets. This brings welcome income to communities struggling to overcome the sudden shock of currency depreciation.
Yei River was the historic site of a coffee exporting industry before civil war forced an end to commercial activity in the area. These recent developments bring the promise of a revival of the industry in South Sudan. This is good news for Equatoria in particular and South Sudan in general, as the nation adapts to the harsh realities of an economy that can no longer depend almost exclusively on the export of crude oil.
Unlike the oil industry which employs less than 1% of the nation’s working population, exploiting the agricultural potential of Equatoria’s fertile greenbelt, opens up significant employment opportunities for our majority rural population. It remains to be seen whether national government, which so far has been hesitant to empower innovative and forward looking local authorities like Yei River, will loosen its stifling and bureaucratic stranglehold on commercial activity and provide the states with the resources they need to move toward intensive agriculture.