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Burundi Coffee Farmers to Withhold Crop, Seek Station Control

Burundi’s coffee growers threatened to stop selling produce unless they are granted a controlling stake in the East African nation’s washing stations, said Joseph Ntirampeba, president of the farmers’ association.

The country started selling its coffee-washing and purification plants to closely held companies in 2009, with Webcor Ltd., a Swiss company, buying 13 stations. Burundi in November said it plans to sell the remaining 133 stations.

Farmers should hold a controlling stake in the plants as they have paid a tax of 60 Burundian francs ($0.04) per kilogram of coffee cherries since the 1980s to pay for the construction of the stations, Ntirampeba, who leads the National Federation of Coffee-Growing Associations of Burundi, known as CNAC, said by phone Dec. 9 from Bujumbura, the capital.

“We are not ready to give our coffee freely when we are not really involved,” he said. “Coffee is our business, our efforts, everything to us as it is grown on our lands and we spend all the time working in it.”

Coffee output in Burundi, which grows mainly the arabica variety and relies on the crop to generate more than half its foreign-currency earnings, may drop 13 percent to 21,000 metric tons this year amid declining plantings, the Burundi Coffee Regulatory Agency said in June.

Production is falling because of a lack of motivation among farmers, who are replacing the beans with other crops, according to Ntirampeba.

Growers are “revolting against themselves” and will be the first to suffer if the plants are destroyed, Finance Ministry spokesman Joseph Ndayikeza said by phone from Bujumbura on Dec. 9.

Arabica-coffee futures for March delivery snapped three days of losses, adding 0.6 percent to $2.2725 a pound by 9:31 a.m. in New York on Dec. 9.

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