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Burundi Opposition Starts Campaign Against Coffee Liberalization

Burundi’s opposition Party of Workers and Democracy began a countrywide campaign against government liberalization of the coffee industry, which it said was giving national wealth to foreign companies.

The political group and two student unions are gathering signatures from rural people, farmers and coffee industry officials across the East African nation, party leader Paul Nkunzimana told reporters yesterday in Bujumbura, the capital.

Coffee equipment worth more than $25 million “was given to private operators at only $3 million,” Nkunzimana said.

Burundi earns 70 percent of its foreign exchange from coffee, according to the African Development Bank. The government plans to sell or has sold all 145 coffee-washing stations to private companies, a process urged by the World Bank as a condition for budget support.

Privatization Minister Issa Ngendakumana did not answer three calls to his office seeking comment.

Burundi grows mainly arabica coffee and on June 11 forecast production to more than double to 27,819 metric tons. More than two-thirds of Burundians live in poverty, according to the International Monetary Fund.

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