The Republic of Angola is a country located in the Southern African west coast. It is bordered by Namibia to the south, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Zambia to the east, and the South Atlantic Ocean to the west.
Its emergence as a state originates from Portuguese colonisation, with coastal settlements and trading posts being established in the 16th century. The country’s borders, however, were not established until the early 20th century.
Angola has a fast growing economy, owing to its vast mineral and petroleum reserves. Its largest trade partners are China and the United States.
The country is also abundant in fertile land, which has resulted in a thriving coffee industry in the past. In fact, Angola’s coffee industry was so successful that it was once one of the leading producers of coffee in the world. After a turbulent mid-twentieth century, coffee production in Angola has taken a big hit. However, recent initiatives are beginning to revitalise the industry of this cash crop.
The History of Coffee Production in Angola
Coffee production in Angola was introduced in 1830 by the Portuguese, and seven years later the first commercial coffee plantation was started by a Brazilian farmer in 1837.
While under Portuguese rule, Angola was one of the world’s largest producers of coffee. Coffee plantations turned into a successful coffee industry, especially in the Uíge Province, located to the northwest of Angola. Its burgeoning industry largely contributed to Angola’s economy.
Angola’s coffee industry peaked during the early 1970s when there were around 600,000 ha of coffee farms in the country, most of which grew Robusta. This was to drastically change by 1975 as civil war engulfed the country and devastated the majority of plantations. As a result, most Angolan agronomists migrated to Brazil, along with a large number of its migrant workforce. The coffee plants that were left behind grew into wild bushes.
Eventually the civil war led to the mass exodus of Portuguese people from the country. This was to the detriment of Angola’s coffee industry as all the Portuguese farm owners, managers, and technicians disappeared.
By the 1990s, a new government nationalised the coffee estates. During this period, two state-owned companies were established: Cafangol and Uigimex. These companies managed all coffee marketing and exports for Angola.
Since 2000, there have been further efforts for rehabilitation. The establishment of new roads has led to industrial activity to improve. However, investment to replace the unproductive plants are estimated to cost around $230 million.
Angola has also developed its own institute of coffee, titled The Angola National Institute of Coffee (INCA). In the past, it had three research stations that were responsible for producing and distributing robusta seedlings. These stations were located in the regions of Gabela, Kwanza Sul, and Uíge. The Uíge station is currently the only operable site.
Angola Coffee Farming
Angola experiences alternating rainy and dry seasons which differ depending on different geographical locations. In northern regions, the rainy season lasts from September to April. In the south, the rainy season begins later, in November and lasts until February.
Some of its highest regions stand at around 2000 m.a.s.l. This offers an excellent altitude for growing high quality coffee in Angola. This is because higher altitudes offer cooler temperatures which slow down the growth of the coffee plant. As a result, the plants devote more energy to bean production, which in turn produces more sugars that make the final product sweeter.
Both large and small-holder coffee farms are present in Angola. The country hosts around 25,000 smaller farms and they produce half of the country’s crop. Most of these smallholder farms cover areas of just up to 5 ha, whereas larger commercial farms cover over 5000 ha.
The producer Café Cazengo was created in 2010 and has around 500 coffee growers. The majority of their production is sold to the United States. This farm benefits from an average 20ºC that remains consistent all year round, and in general coffee from this region is organically grown close to river beds, where nutrient rich waters aid in the development of high quality beans.
After harvesting, beans are typically naturally processed and sun dried. This process allows the fruit and mucilage to dry around the bean, which eventually produces a much more full-bodied, sweet coffee. Coffee in Arabica may also undergo a half washed, half natural processing.
Overall, Angola is rich in the resources required for good coffee farming, and currently contains around 40,000 ha of coffee farms.
Angola Coffee Production Regions
Angola’s geography allows for the establishment of coffee farms all over the country. The farming of robusta occurs mainly along the country’s central plateau, while arabica is grown in Benguela, Bie, Huambo, Huila, and Moxico. Other coffee production regions in Angola include Uíge, Kwanza Norte, Kwanza Sul, Bengo, and Cabinda.
Angola Coffee Types and Varietals
In terms of specific varietals, Angola cultivates Ambiom robusta, as it is found to be one of the most valuable in terms of price, taste, and popularity. Research has found that Ambiom has higher levels of caffeine, and it is believed that this varietal contains antioxidants found in its micro-particles that may aid in human health through disease prevention.
Angola arabica coffee is not as widely cultivated as robusta, only accounting for 5% of the country’s total coffee exports. Recently, arabica farms have been established at higher altitudes along the country’s Central Plateau.
Angola Coffee Flavour Profile
Angolan robusta has an uncharacteristically sweet and smooth taste, owing to the country’s ideal altitude and climate. One will therefore find a cup of Angolan coffee to have a smooth, buttery mouthfeel. Regardless of any bitterness one might commonly expect from the varietal, Angolan robusta is generally thought to be a sweet coffee.
Angola Coffee Harvest Date
Harvesting dates differ in Angola’s vast regional expanse. Generally, the rainy season lasts until April, after which the coffee bean is harvested.
In the south of the country, the rainy season is between November and February, meaning that harvesting occurs from March onward.
Angola Annual Coffee Production
In 1973, Angola recorded a total yield of 209,000 tonnes of coffee. By 1997, the figures had dropped significantly, and only brought in a total of $5 million, compared to its prior higher-earning years.
The Angola coffee industry is monitored and regulated by the Secretary of State for Coffee through the Secretariat of Coffee, which was established in 1988. As part of this regulation, all coffee producers must obtain a licence, which is valued at around $40, and prove they have the prerequisites to properly produce coffee. This includes having the capital to handle at least 15 tonnes of coffee and a serviceable warehouse.
There is also an Angolan higher education center project which helps coffee farmers formalise their cooperatives.
Larger commercial farms such as Fazenda Vissolela produced 2,160 tonnes of coffee in 2021 and expects to increase its production numbers to 5,400 tonnes by 2025.
In 2019-2020, Angola’s commercial bean production was up by 34%, reflecting the incorporation of new support for its coffee industry. The abundance of available land for coffee farming has reportedly resulted in a competitive coffee industry within the country.
Angola Coffee Annual Export Volume
Coffee is one of Angola’s largest agricultural products. At its peak while under Portuguese rule, Angola was the third largest producer of coffee in the world in the early 1970s.
In 2020, exports totalled at around 27,701 60kg bags, which was an increase from the previous year.
Angola Coffee Growing Potential
Agriculture and forestry has a lot of potential in Angola. The World Bank estimates that less than 3% of its abundant fertile land is cultivated and the economic potential of the forestry sector remains largely unexploited.
Displaced workers are looking for solutions to rebuild Angola’s coffee farming industry and rebuild their communities. Analysis from agriculture research group CIRAD has found that there is widespread interest among locals to bring Angola’s coffee sector back to its former glory.