Best practices for both Robusta and Arabica coffee: Planting: At least one month before planting,dig the hole 2 feet wide and 2 feet deep. Put the top black soils to one side and the red ones to another side. For Arabica, the holes are placed 8x8 feet apart; Robusta grows wider and is planted 10x10 feet apart. One may add compost manure to the hole so it fully decomposes, settling into the soil before planting.At this point, the farmer hopes for rain so it can soak the pit with water. Then it it is time for the hardened seedling to be planted; the black top soil goes into the hole first and is topped with the red soil.
Care for Coffee: Coffee is a forest plant.It needs light but not a lot of sunshine.If the shade trees or bananas are not yet fully grown to provide sufficient shade; use palm leaves or something similar to protect the new plant. Arabica coffee is capped off when it is at knee length: the top of the shoot is broken off to allow two extra branches(referred to as siblings) to sprout. Ensure there is sufficient nitrogen in the soil to augment vegetative growth. This will increase the yield of the tree. For a mature plantation.it is recommended to selectively stump one or two stems of a coffee tree.It may reduce harvest volumes for a season but the fresh sprouts lend the tree a new lease of life; also increasing its yield. Monitor and scout the field for pests and symptoms of disease. Treat what needs to be treated. If there is a drought;look out for leaf rust fungus which is easily managed with copper oxy-chloride. The pests can be spot-sprayed with pesticide.Prune excessive branches,weed,inter-crop,mulch and water as necessary. Make a basin around each coffee tree. The depression is supposed to harvest rain water ; it is widened as the plant grows. This vigilance carries on till the coffee flowers. Depending on soil fertility , weather conditions and care given to the coffee,it will flower anywhere between 18 and 24 months. If not pollinated in time , the flowers abort; falling off the trees. Here it is wise to support the pollination of Robusta that is cross-pollinated. To enable this, create a beehive for every 6 acres of coffee. As the bees collect nectar, they pollinate the coffee trees (Arabica coffee is self-pollinating) A week after pollination, the cherries are formed. If the cherries are produced with insufficient nutrients in the soil, there are high chances that they will wither and dry before maturity. Test the soil to be sure but it is ideal to boost the soil with potassium for healthy cherries. With sufficient rains, the coffee will be ready to harvest 3 months after the berries are formed.
Harvesting and handling Pick only the ripe cherry that is red up to the knuckle-point of connection to the branch. Coffee is normally picked in a 6-acre block so that production can be evaluated block by block. It is then weighed and sorted for insect damagesand unripe cherries. when placed in water, the unripe cherries will float. The coffee is then pulped using either a hand pulper for small quantities or an electric one for larger volumes. The pulper removes the red skin and then the coffee is left in clean water for 2 days to remove the mucilage. Then it is ready for drying . Some buyers request for coffee dried with mucilage; apparently it has a unique cup taste. The parchment coffee is dried on raised mesh -drying tables-that allow for aeration.It takes about 1 week for the coffee to dry and retain the recommended moisture content of between 12% and 13.4%. The coffee that is dried in its husk, referred to as kiboko , takes up to 4 weeks to dry.The name allegedly makes reference to how farmers were caned if they were reluctant to grow coffee.
Processing The UCDA quality Services Directorate works with farmers, traders, roasters, barista and anyone else in the coffee value chain to train on harvesting and handling procedures.Then in collaboration with the agricultural police ,they ensure conformity to the coffee regulations.Arrests have been made for drying coffee on the bare ground; uncertified stores; and processing wet coffee. Except farmers, everyone else in the coffee value chain requires a license; storekeepers,primary processors(pulping and hulling factories ) and roasters. There is a technical extension team of agricultural engineers who enforce the organisation mandate to license and regulate all primary coffee processors in the country. Working under the management of the development Directory, the technical team:
- Checks that the machines are calibrated to the right settings to ensure the beans are not broken when hulling kiboko
- Monitors the coffee arriving at mill to enforce the moisture standards of coffee before processing.
- Where possible encourages farmers to take coffee foe wet processing at the factory instead of using hand pulpers. This allows for uniform quality in pulped beans.The wet processing factories must be licensed by UCDA
-pests and diseases,
-harsh weather conditions,
-poor farming practices,
- discouraging prices paid to farmers.