An Interview with Mrs. Fatoum Muslot, Yemen Coffee Exporter

This year’s arrivals came with an informational piece Fatoum Muslot put together for the four coffees we purchased from her. But as always, she gave us so much more than that. Fatoum covers a lot of ground here, going on at length about the contemporary Yemeni coffee sector, outlining common heirloom varieties, topography of coffee zones, and the profound impact coffee has on the livelihood of so many Yemeni farmers. We’ve added this update from Fatoum as images at the end of the article, as well as a downloadable .pdf.

Jump to the update

We sent a list of questions to our source for Yemen coffee, and what we received back was an amazing perspective on coffee and crisis.

If you read the global headlines, and know about the war that rages in Yemen, you too might wonder how the coffee still seems to flow from the country. Well, the reason is that people like Mrs Fatoum Muslot make it flow. And they do it against a backdrop of incredible instability and uncertainty.

We had sent a list of questions we had to Ms Fatoum, but from what she sent back to us, it seemed she wanted to take charge of the questions and the answers. She wanted to portray her work and her situation in her own way. And she wanted to promote her company and product.

And all I could think when I read this amazing document was that I completely respect her for doing this interview for us, and doing it her way, not ours.

So I wanted to introduce it in this context, but also leave her words 100% intact, as she sent them to us. Please read this and consider the amazing journey coffee takes. For me, reading this does more, and raises larger questions about where and why these global conflict zones exist, but I will keep those thoughts to myself so you, reader, may have your own ! – Thompson


Interview with the self-made woman, Fatoum Muslot (Producer and exporter)the owner of POT-Pearl of Tehama for Import, Export & C.A.S.

Yemen is an Arab country located southwest of the Arabian Peninsula in western Asia. Its area is about 555,000 square kilometers, and its population is 27 million, according to the population projection for the year 2019. Yemen borders the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the north and the Sultanate of Oman to the east, and it has a southern coast on the Arabian Sea and a western coast on the Red Sea.

Yemen is considered one of the oldest centers of civilization in the ancient world, it is not known exactly when the history of ancient Yemen began, but some inscriptions of Mesopotamia civilization conceive that it started long ago.

In 2012, nearly half of the population in Yemen was food insecure, 22 percent were suffering from “severe food insecurity, and unable to produce or purchase the food they needed, with nearly half of the children under five the country – two million children – chronically has one million people suffering from severe acute malnutrition (WFP, 2012).

More than half of the population currently lacks sufficient food and water, very few people have access to basic health services, more than 10% of Yemen’s 27 million people are internally displaced, and eight million people have no means of earning a living.

For the time being 2020, the situation has become more deteriorating and cannot be evaluated after a fierce war that has been going on for 5 years, until this war is over. Unfortunately, there is no immediate possibility of a political solution to the conflict.

In this country where its people live this tragedy, many simple Yemenis do not know what is required of their country in order to remain the scene of conflicts and settle scores? Why is this country not intended to settle and join the surrounding countries that enjoy progress, prosperity and stability?

Everyone feels the extent of oppression, injustice, and suffering that Yemeni person suffers, so that many Yemenis have immigrated from their homes and lands and searched for another homeland to enjoy life as others enjoy it.

Nevertheless, many of the vanquished ones from the poor farmers who are unable to separate their soil and fields in the Yemeni countryside find that death on this land is easier than they leave it.

In spite of the great repercussions of these conditions caused by the war, farmers in the Yemeni agricultural sector have managed in recent years to produce at a higher rate than before, especially coffee farmers who increased their production of coffee as a cash crop, but they find it difficult to sell their Yemeni coffee product which is basically sold and exported abroad.

Many national companies have played a big role in helping farmers by absorbing their products and doing a continuous search for external importers despite the high costs of production, transportation and shipping. Unfortunately, many attempts to search for buyers of Yemeni coffee in foreign markets have failed due to the reluctance of many importing companies from contracting with Yemeni companies that export coffee, on the pretext that importing from Yemen is risky, or that there may be no commitment to deadlines in delivering shipments on time as a result of the ongoing war in Yemen.

In this interview, a case will be highlighted, as long as many of those who reach Yemeni coffee in the importing countries ask about it, which is that:

in light of the chaotic war in Yemen that has been going on for more than 5 years, how can exporting companies in Yemen export coffee crops to all parts of the world?”

Here, it is good for us to review with you the story of the energetic woman, Fatoum  Muslot, the owner of POT-  Pearl of Tehama  for Import , Export & C.A.S. which did not spare an effort to export coffee to the American, European, Asian, and Gulf markets despite these difficulties. It was not for winning but in solidarity with this group that produces coffee and farmers whose livelihood and income are associated with the support this company provides them with. This company takes their coffee and markets to them and works with them side by side in these circumstances. Mrs. Fatoum, who is a farmer in addition to being exporter, says that she cannot take the crop from the farmers at a time of prosperity and leave them at a time of suffering.

Fatoum Muslot set a great example for the Yemeni human and the Yemeni woman and her absolute struggle in fulfillment of her fellow citizens who need help to enable them to resist the difficult conditions and preserve their legacy from the coffee trees that they consider as their children after they decided not to abandon those fields in order to preserve them.

We will try to hold a meeting with Mrs. Fatoum Muslot to explain how she was able to export under these circumstances and the production process for the Yemeni coffee crop will be addressed from the beginning of the season until the dispatch of shipments to different countries, reviewing the obstacles that were hindering the success of this process in the various stages. Also, we will know how It was overcome by POT- Pearl of Tehama Company, so that exporting abroad (made) it easy?

The text of the interview with Mrs. Fatoum Muslot, the owner of  POT- pearl of Tehama for Import , Export & C.A.S.

Sweet Marias: Madam We would like at the beginning to introduce yourself to the public who is looking to know your successful experience in carrying out the process of exporting to American markets in such circumstances and at such a high rate, and we would like to inform us to how your business began in the coffee business? How did you manage to go through this painstaking profession that only men in Yemen practice?

Mrs Muslot smiles and embarrassed, and says that she initially like to thank Sweet Marias, who is one of the successful companies with a pure history for her efforts to help us. Also she says we are very proud that this company is in the list of companies that import coffee to Yemen through POT – pearl of Tehama and we hope that our relationship will develop and expand in the future.

Regarding my work in this field as Yemeni woman to trade in coffee, the reasons are many, but there are personal reasons, the most important of which is that my Late father, may God have mercy on him, was one of the oldest Yemeni merchants who exported Yemeni coffee abroad (1956 AD).She says that he founded Ali Hiba Muslot stores for import and export the most important markets he targeted were American and Asian markets .

Although I am the only daughter of Ali Hiba Muslot, I did not work in this profession during the period in which my father was the most famous exporter of Yemeni coffee. She added this profession is not classified as a woman’s job, but I was determined to go into this work as the first Yemeni woman to master this profession that my father was worked in it, which is the profession of exporting coffee, even though he trades in other areas such as agricultural inputs (fertilizers, seeds, pesticides, agricultural tools, etc.).She continues although I did not participate in this work, I was excited to work in it because I often heard my father talking about it with passion and importance.

The other reason is that most of the workers in this profession were women, where more than 60 families worked with my father in the purification, cleaning, grading and filling of coffee in addition to the agricultural families that my father was dealing with. when my father passed away, this event was very sad in the lives of those families who were considered Ali Hiba Muslot as their father, and I was very affected by these situations, and therefore I felt a great responsibility towards these women and families who depend on their incomes in working with my father in the field of coffee.

Accordingly, established POT- Pearl of Tehama as new brand as an extension of my father’s history through which we can export to our customers in the United States of America and European and Asian markets in addition to many other countries despite the obstacles and challenges that l faced, especially during the political turmoil in Yemen since 2011 and the civil war that started in 2015, which made exporting extremely difficult, especially at the beginning of air, land and sea attacks on Yemen.

Yemen coffee - Pearl of Tehama
Yemen coffee – Pearl of Tehama
Ms Fatoum Muslot
Mrs Fatoum Muslot – photo from Pearl of Tehama

The current situation of the agricultural sector in Yemen

Sweet Marias: An important question was put for Mrs. Fatoum Muslot, to know to what extent the war affected Yemen in general and the agricultural sector in particular?

She says, Yemeni community has witnessed the most striking examples of persistence and endurance for the worst wars of history. Ferocity and cruelty embodied in death, misery, disease, hunger and destruction in all aspects of life. The world did not expect the dangerous repercussions of this war in our country in which disasters have continued respectively, especially his war was unfolding day after day about a tragic chaos that inflicts misery on everything in our lives, especially in the agricultural sector.

This fierce attack has seriously affected most of our development sectors and infrastructure, but our strong people refused to make this ordeal a breakthrough for the revival of the agricultural sector, and in particular the coffee crop, using the civilization heritage and natural and agricultural resources that this country possesses. They extract the fruits of this good land and farmers were able to make the agricultural sector and the production of coffee a means for that stability.

Mrs. Fatoum says also that the agricultural sector has proven to be the most vital sector in the Republic of Yemen, which has not stopped during the past years of the war but has increased vitality and activity, although it was targeted in a crazy and immoral manner. The fact that the belligerents felt that this sector is the only sector that absorbed the vast majority of Yemenis and enabled them to stick to the factors of stability and resilience.

The importance of Yemeni coffee in the lives of Yemenis

Mrs. Muslot said that hundreds of thousands of Yemeni families depend on the coffee crop to develop their income. Nearly a million people work in this field from planting to exporting, and coffee can be considered as the main commodity that Yemen exports to the world after oil.

Yemen used to export coffee to the world, and until now. Exports continue to many countries of the world, but at a lower rate, because this sector has suffered from the great losses in light of the continuing conflicts and wars.

In social terms, she says that coffee fruits have a special place in the memory of Yemenis, and there is consensus on the historical and moral value of this crop. As for the history of Yemeni coffee, Mrs. Fatoum says that Yemenis are the first to export coffee hundreds of years ago through the port of Mocha on the Red Sea, which is about 250 kilometers west of Sana’a, but the port is now a military base for the coalition military forces.

The process of exporting coffee started during the sixteenth century through this port to various countries of the world, especially Europe and Southeast Asia. As a result of the quality of Yemeni coffee compared to its counterparts in the world, many companies were keen to release the name Mocha Coffee on the coffee that it markets, relatively to the Mocha Port, and this name still has the Yemeni coffee as the best coffee.

Mrs. Fatoum about what things have turned to, recently. She says that Mocha, which was the first city in history to export coffee to Europe and America and the smell of the quality Yemeni coffee in the world filled the port, is now drowned in blood, and its alleys and green farms are filled with bombs and bullets.

The future of Yemeni coffee and its future growth indicators

Sweet Marias: in a special question about the nature and variations of coffee and its ability to withstand in ongoing war and what are the indicators of the growth of this sector in the future?

Mrs. Fatoum says that the Yemeni coffee is stable on the ground as the stability of the mountains due to the great genetic diversity among its varieties, which enables it to resist many difficult conditions. This genetic diversity is supposed to benefit from it all countries of the world and preserve it in its land by providing support to Yemeni research centers. These centers will implement programs to keep it from deteriorating because Yemeni coffee is the origin of coffee in the world.

Pearl of Tehama will finance the first research to know the amount of the genetic variation between the Yemeni commercial varieties and contribute to support the work of the genetic print and research studies will prove that Yemen is the origin of coffee in the world. Here, we invite all international coffee organizations, in particular the International Coffee Organization, UTZ And IWCA to save this legacy from deterioration due to the negative effects of climate change. Yemeni coffee is a heritage that is concerned by the whole world and it is known that Yemen has limited capabilities to mitigate the effects of climate change and depends on that through the limited support of some donor directions.  POT has prepared to contribute to any efforts in this regard.

The world must know that Yemeni coffee is of the Arabica type, which is considered the best coffee, and diversity in Yemen is unparalleled anywhere in the world. Coffee in Yemen is still virgin and is naturally produced on rain without adding any chemicals, and Yemen is a diverse environment and miniature continent; from this variation in climates and terrain, Yemen has preserved a great deal of genetic diversity and local breeds.

Under these agricultural biological diversities, Mrs. Fatoum says that there are an infinite number of varieties of coffee in Yemen, and there are many names given to varieties of coffee, most of which are attributed to the areas where it is grown. Coffee trees spread in most Yemeni cities, especially the cold ones, whether in the northern or southern regions, and the colors and smell of coffee vary according to the relief and place of its cultivation.

The number of coffee trees in the country exceeds more than 40 million trees which are grown on an area of ​​35 thousand hectares. The total production of coffee in Yemen reached about 25 thousand tons in 2019, which is a modest number considering the productivity of other countries.

Mrs. Muslot adds that the climatic and environmental conditions also contributed to the fact that Yemeni coffee takes the first rank in the quality scale across the world. It is grown in the mountainous highlands and agricultural terraces that Yemeni farms have been famous for since ancient times.

Yemen is the only country in the world in which the coffee tree is grown, under multiple climatic and environmental conditions, that are not identical to those where its counterparts are grown in other regions of the world. Coffee mainly relies on the rainy season for irrigation of coffee plantations.

The restoration of the historical status of Yemeni coffee

Sweet Marias: The enthusiasm and the pride of the Yemeni coffee that shown by Mrs. Fatoum during her interview prompted us to ask her a question about the extent of Yemen’s ability to restore the historical status of coffee and what are the positive advantages and the indicators that make this dream realistic in the near future?

Mrs. Fatoum Muslot responds by saying that her father, may God have mercy on him, is an old merchant who had great experience in coffee and he always said that one day, Yemeni coffee will allocated to a class people because it is not possible to produce much of it in the world with this same quality while the production of ordinary coffee of producing countries increases Which covers the demands of the vast majority of coffee drinkers, while Yemeni coffee will not be purchased and paid for, except for those who know the distinction between it and ordinary coffee. I also remember that he said that during his meeting with foreign experts who came on an exploratory trip to coffee, they told him that there is a treasure in Yemen that Yemenis do not know its value, and that one day they will come and discover this treasure because the diversity in flavors within its varieties is much more than the diversity that found in the rest coffee of all world.

Fatoum Muslot adds that the quality of the Yemeni coffee is the main reason that will enable Yemen to regain its historical position, although the area of ​​its cultivation has shrunk and become limited .So, Yemen cannot compete in quantity, but will compete with quality, and with more attention to value chains, we will reach a high level that no coffee in the world can compete with the Yemeni coffee.

Although Yemen was not able to take full advantage of the benefits of Yemeni coffee to restore its historical position during the past five decades but the signs of hope have become great at the present time, and there is an increasing interest in coffee cultivation and expanding its area. The war may have had a positive role in this regard as many people have returned to their lands after they lost their jobs due to the war and began caring for this crop.

In any case, there are many advantages that will support the realization of this hope, which are as follows:

  1. The international fame as the first coffee source in the world,
  2. Having a strong local coffee culture,
  3. The presence of rich genetic diversity,
  4. There are great opportunities for a large number of distinct brands,
  5. Having the advantage of a diverse agricultural environment and appropriate climatic conditions,
  6. The presence of the high quality and distinctive taste of traditional Yemeni coffee varieties,
  7. The availability of the national agricultural system adequate to coffee development,
  8. Coffee is the first cash crop in Yemen,
  9. A great possibility to export Yemeni coffee varieties because it is the only one that can achieve economic returns at the national level,
  10. For Yemen, it is considered an ambassador for her abroad,
  11. Until now, Yemen only exported green beans, while the added value and the work of multiple coffee products have not been increased, especially in the field of roasting and manufacturing.

Export has generally stopped for a limited time

Sweet Marias: when reading the events of Yemen in the United States, everyone thinks that it is unlikely that anything will be exported from Yemen, so what would you want someone in North America to know about the situation in Yemen regarding this issue?

Mrs. Fatoum Muslot responds that the export process is currently in full swing, and indeed we always find such a question from many importing companies, whether American, European or Asian. Unfortunately, this issue greatly affects our ability to market more than the negative effects of war. As you know that there are many options available to carry out the import and export process according to the facilities that provided by the United Nations and the Security Council. Aden Port has been designated for import and export, but it is important to address how the war affected the production, transportation and export process.

During the first six months of the war, coffee did not come out of Yemen, but everything related to the activity of coffee was stopped. Rather, the war greatly and catastrophically affected all aspects of life in Yemen and the agricultural sector in general, including the coffee sector, which was greatly affected by the war because the air attacks targeted everywhere and after the first six months, under pressure from the United Nations and the Security Council, and as a result of increasing victims, the strikes were limited to the border fronts or to conflict areas away from cities.

One of the fortunes of the coffee producing regions is that they are located far from the burning fronts. Most coffee is grown in the mountainous highlands, while the war takes place in the desert and in the coastal areas where coffee is not grown.

The percentage of Yemeni coffee which is exported abroad

Sweet Marias: what are the reasons for the low level of export from Yemeni coffee to abroad if all conditions are ready for export at the present time?

Mrs. Muslot response was that the reasons hindering the export of large quantities of Yemeni coffee are due to the lack of clarity of the vision of the importing companies about the correct situation in Yemen as a result of the exaggerating of the news, in addition to another very important reason which is the inability of national companies or the Yemeni national media to promote an efficient electronic marketing of the Yemeni coffee commodity and define its advantages, and we will address these reasons later.

Here, I would like to say to all importing companies in all parts of the world that the possibility of exporting in Yemen is great and we have in  Pearl of Tehama a great ability to export. Also, we  ensure that the coffee reaches buyers who  do not pay until we ship it to them and send the original shipping documents.

Many certificates were granted to the exporting Yemeni companies and many international agencies and organizations commend the quality of the Yemeni coffee that was exported during the war period. Also, we received many thanks and appreciation certificates from the companies and agencies that deal with us. Recently, Brazilian, Ethiopian and many countries coffee came to us, and we know from the taste and the smell how far the Yemeni coffee is superior to others.

American” Bloomberg” agency, for example, says that Yemeni coffee has gained international fame due its high quality, and is acclaimed as the best coffee in the world. The agency said that high-quality Yemeni coffee was imported to the United States for the first time since the emergence of the specialty coffee. Bloomberg (quoted) a coffee cultivation expert that 90% of the world’s coffee is grown in Yemen.

More than half of the coffee that is consumed in the United States is of the excellent type, and it has increased by more than 40 percent in the last six years.”Blue Battle Cafe” company, which specializes in roasting coffee, sold the Yemeni coffee cup at an unprecedented price, at 16 One dollar per cup, and the administrative president for the company James Freeman described Yemeni coffee as “heavenly, like angels singing.”

There is no doubt that there are many reasons that prevent the export of more quantities of Yemeni coffee, and we can address some of them here:

  1. Importing companies are afraid of the situation in Yemen, as the news usually gives an unrealistic view of what is happening and many companies fear that the arrival of coffee from Yemen may falter due to the conditions and may fail to abide by their pledges and this is certainly not correct and the export process is ongoing and there is no delay to( ship) coffee on time, Currently. We have famous clients and some of them have been with us for more than 36 years and those who are hesitant to purchase directly from us can coordinate with these companies.
We invite all companies to invest with us and open broad horizons for joint cooperation and our prices are logical and are not exaggerated and almost close to the prices of Excellent coffee that coming from other countries.
  1. The high price of Yemeni coffee compared to coffee received from the coffee producing countries, and this rise is due to the quality of coffee on the one hand and to the high costs of production in Yemen. The country has prevented any coffee to enter into Yemen; this is considered as a support to the local coffee sector .This decision led to raise the price of coffee locally, and this also has an impact on the income of the exporting companies. Nevertheless, the Yemeni coffee that is exported is still the same despite the fact that the export costs have increased, and if the excess quantities of Yemeni coffee are not exported, the price of coffee will decrease locally and this will reflect negatively on the activity of the sector because the production costs are high, especially with the high input and transportation costs, especially during this difficult period. Therefore, the importing companies only have to experiment and deal with it from a humanitarian standpoint to help the poor farmers and from a professional standpoint to support the survival of this sector and its recovery, and therefore even if the price difference in Yemeni coffee is high compared to other coffee, then take a small amount of it and consider the difference a humanitarian and professional support even though we confirm that this difference is not significant and that the quality of Yemeni coffee deserves to be preferred over others, even if it is high.
  2. The inability of coffee exporting companies from Yemen to electronic marketing and their inability to persuade importing companies to buy.

The factors for the continuation of the export process during the war period

Sweet Marias: Madam: You mentioned that the export process faltered at the beginning of the war and was tiring, arduous and expensive, so how did you manage to export normally? What are the factors that helped you to export coffee during the last period and in higher quantities than before?

Mrs. Fatoum responds and says, “I spoke earlier that there are humanitarian motives behind our determination to work in export despite the interruption of many coffee exporters. With all the previous problems , Pearl of Tehama managed to double the quantities of export and expand marketing to other countries. Indeed, many new companies sympathized with us and started working with us during the war, such as Sweet Marias, Olam America’s Inc , InterAmerican Coffee GmbH and other traders in the Gulf countries; also, Jordan, Lebanon, Italy and the Netherlands, and all these combined us during the current war period. We have many companies on their way to join us and there are many other helping factors that facilitated us to attract more importers ;the most important of which is that Pearl OF Tehama hired a technical team that contributed to controlling the quality levels and helped to provide accurate data on the coffee sector and helped in classifying varieties and making distinct mixes and constantly supervises the application of good agricultural operations and post-harvest transactions (value chains).

In addition to the foregoing, there is another thing that is considered one of the most important factors, which is the reputation of Pearl of Tehama among customers. Before importing, companies that deal with Pearl of Tehama are asked by importing company about the ease of dealing, commitment and efficiency of POT because many coffee companies are interconnected and have relationships with Each other. Many companies have told us at the beginning of their dealings that they have asked about us and therefore have agreed to do business with us.

On the other hand, electronic marketing is considered to be one of the most important factors for success, and POT spends a lot and is interested in this aspect very much so that electronic marketing reaches high levels of skill in correspondence and communication.

Mrs. Fatoum Muslot added that Pearl of Tehama deals with absolute honesty, whether with farmers or with companies and provides all the required information. Prices have been fixed even in light of price fluctuations internally and the high price of coffee after a decision was issued to prevent the entry of any coffee from abroad to Yemen.

Also, everyone became aware that pearl of Tehama carries a humanitarian message; it carries the concerns of farmers.  pearl of Tehama has never stopped exporting during the darkest conditions and was not aware of the risks that might interfere with the process of transporting coffee internally at a time when many companies stopped exporting as a result of these risks . What confirms that, too, that Tehama Pearl worked diligently to attract many customers and sent many samples to different companies despite the high costs of sending samples by DHL.

Although export costs have risen too, the Pearl of Tehama absorbed the additional costs in the entire value chain, while bearing the costs of additional stores for the resulting crop away from the turmoil in the country. In general, Yemeni coffee prices have not changed significantly during the past five years and all the increase in spending was at the expense of the gains that the coffee business was achieving.

The effect of war on the performance of pearl of Tehama during the war period

Sweet Marias: What is your assessment of the performance of POT- the Pearl of Tehama Company? Was its position negatively affected by its work during the war?

Mrs. Fatoum considers that the work in exporting coffee to abroad is be setting with many risks, especially at the beginning of the war, and despite all that, there are gains other than return gains that have been achieved for POT as a result of this effort .It will be positively reflected in the future on the performance of the POT.

 one of the most important gains that It can be talked about are follows:

  • The conditions of many farmers who deal with us have improved and their interest in the crop has increased. Even many of the employees whose jobs stopped in the city have returned to their rural areas and joined the coffee cultivation sector and started to expand it, and this for us in POT is the most important achievements which is the following:
  • Many importing companies combined us; the number of companies that interacted with the letters of POT to cooperate in the export of coffee from Yemen were6 companies. We hope that our partnership with these companies will be greatly cherished.
  • The image of  POT  has improved among the importing companies, producers and related parties. It is respected by all as a result of its dedication to providing the best and suitable prices as evidence that it is not seeking behind the gain as much as it is looking to provide assistance to farmers and contribute to the revival of the coffee sector.
  • Pearl of Tehama gained high experience in various fields of work in this sector. It has great potential to provide services to farmers and absorb their product from coffee and export it, especially after it bought coffee processing equipment and will set up a coffee factory in the near time.
  • Its ability to persuade importing companies to double demand, such as the Royal Coffee Company, which increased the demand for Yemeni coffee by 200%. This, in turn, will contribute to the recovery of the coffee sector in Yemen and the preservation of the largest genetic savings of coffee and its great diversity that have existed in Yemen since ancient times. Neglecting the crop in such conditions and under the negative impact of climatic changes will lead to deterioration.
Everyone must provide assistance to overcome this ordeal and preserve this global heritage of Yemeni coffee varieties by absorbing production, which is a production that deserve buying due to its high quality, and if there is a difference in price, quality is worth that because buying coffee from farmers makes them more interested in caring and maintaining the crop.

Reasons for diminishing the production

Sweet Marias: Another question in the same direction to Mrs. Fatoum about the shrinking of production areas during this period?

Mrs. Fatoum says that the war that Yemen has witnessed for more than 5 years is not the reason for shrinking the area of ​​coffee cultivation. Yemen have been exported about 65,000 tons to the whole world in the 1950s, and it is the only country that exported coffee at the time and she adds that the war leads to a decline of another side in coffee cultivation due to the low level of performance in the institutions that concerned with supporting, developing, and marketing the cultivation of coffee. As a result, Yemeni coffee is in the late rank in the ladder of global production after it was a sign that the world knows Yemen through. The conflicts and wars that have accompanied the country, in general, participate in declining its status and thwarting all attempts to get it back on the global front.

Mrs. Fatoum also says that the deteriorating security conditions at the beginning of the war led to the withdrawal of many international organizations that were working in the agricultural sector also, the support was stopped for farmers, and the farms faced many obstacles.

Coffee farmers and exporters suffered at the beginning of the war a great difficulty in transporting products to the markets of major cities and export ports because of the deterioration of the security situation due to the vacuum created by these conflicts and deepened by the war.

Mrs. Fatoum also emphasizes that the war has led to a rise in the cost of production inputs, a high cost of rented labor, and difficulty in reaching production areas, in addition to turn off the  electricity, the increasing of coffee planting costs, and the lack of oil fuel on which farmers depend to operate water-lifting machines and plowing the land, so agricultural crops have declined in general and in particular the coffee cultivation in some areas and the lack of it in other regions.

Fuel prices on the black market have tripled, making it difficult for many farmers to purchase the quantities that needed to run their irrigation water pumps. Solar electricity generation to run water pumps is very expensive and there are only some farmers who can buy them.

Mrs. Fatoum emphasized that the coffee planting sector will not recover unless the war stops, and she  stipulated that to achieve this, everyone, farmers, society, government and merchants should join hands to support and encourage farmers and provide modern agricultural production requirements to them.

The deteriorating security situation and the difficulty of reaching the ports

Sweet Marias: In a question to Mrs. Fatoum about her being working in the coastal city of Hodeidah and not the capital, Sana’a, how is that different from being in Sana’a?

Mrs Muslot responds by saying that after the war intensified in Hodeidah town, she migrated with her family to the capital, Sana’a, as the most secure area, and opened a branch office for Tehama Pearl Company in Sana’a, in addition to renting a warehouse to store the coffee that collects from farmers during the harvest season and overcame many Security obstacles with this procedure.

Mrs. Fatoum states that when she was in Hodeidah she was facing problems in the coffee peel phase as a result of the lack of an electricity service to operate the peel machines and the costs doubled when a source of electricity was purchased .Also, storing coffee in Hodeidah warehouse required cooling the store because the exposure to a temperature above 30 degrees for a long time spoil the coffee stock.

Also, at the beginning of the war, we were facing problems in shipping from the port of Hodeidah, which overlooks the Red Sea in western Yemen, due to the battles of the western coast. Therefore, we have problems in the export process related to the high haulages for transportation and shipping after the export of Aden port shifted in the far south. The international air freight agencies have also suspended operations in Yemen, and most insurance companies have agreed to secure the products that shipped from Yemen’s ports, which has increased the cost of export.

When the work moved to Sana’a, the storage problem was overcome because Sana’a is a high area and the temperature is very suitable for storing coffee in normal conditions. However, a problem of high processing of coffee shipments has emerged in front of us; we are processing it in factories owned by other companies at high prices and as a result, POT has purchased its own factory for preparing coffee. It is currently being installed and is expected to start work by the end of this year 2020.

Mrs. Muslot adds that the difficulty of reaching the ports for export at the beginning of the war was more severe because the war was waging in the most of the republic’s regions, but in recent years, it has been confined to certain border areas away from populated areas. Currently, there are no problems in reaching Aden port which the United Nations agreed to keep it open to food aid and trade exchange with Yemen and all warring parties committed to secure supply and transportation lines and facilitate the passage of commercial foodstuffs to and from various Yemeni towns, so the export process has improved a lot after the above steps have been taken.

The access to the ports is still somewhat difficult compared to the previous situation before the war because coffee shipments must cross checkpoints in the regions of both warring sides. because most coffee cultivation taking place in the northern regions and the export port is located in the far south (the city of Aden), the shipping costs increased six times than it was, especially with the rise in prices, especially oil fuel.

Currently, we also find it difficult to send samples to the importing companies to conduct the quality testing process; it is sent overland to Oman, then it is sent to the rest of the countries via air flight after it was sent directly to its customers through Sana’a airport, which was closed by the Arabic alliance in 2016.

The deterioration of the humanitarian situation and food security in general

Sweet Marias: Madam: We usually notice the tones of sadness and grief when you mention the human side of coffee farmers. To what extent can the coffee crop alleviate this suffering?

Mrs. Fatoum Muslot says: When she talks about the humanitarian situation of rural communities in general and coffee farmers in particular, She forgets that she is a merchant, but always reminds that she is a person and works in the same field and is affected by what affects these simple farmers and any person on the earth must be affected by their condition and wishes to help them.

Her response was emotional with clarity of sadness in her words as she reviews some examples of the prevailing humanitarian situations in rural areas. She says that the war has made most of the population in the Yemeni countryside in need of humanitarian assistance, while some of them are on the brink of starvation, in one of the worst humanitarian crises In the world, according to United Nations assessments

Mrs. Fatoum says that the poor farmers in the countryside were poor before this war, and their suffering increased greatly after that, so that the war raised the death rate among them largely due to the spread of diseases such as cholera, H1N, malaria and malnutrition,. Poverty rate in Yemen reached 80%, so this suffering was reflected negatively on the level of performance in the agricultural sector in general and the coffee sector in particular.

The farmers went to grow coffee and take care of it because they feel that it is one of the means through which they can secure their food. Indeed, the situation of the farmers whom we deal with improved relatively and it will improve more when we can improve the prices of products and reduce production costs in the future.

The development of work during the war

Sweet Marias: In another question for Mrs. Fatoum, how did the conflict in Yemen change the way which coffee comes from farmers?

Mrs. Fatoum says that the war, despite its negative aspects, also had positive repercussions, especially in POT Pearl of Tehama for Import , export company. The company made great efforts to produce Yemeni coffee with high specifications and by using modern equipment. The war made it constantly search for customers using electronic marketing, and it tried during the war period to merges between the quality of coffee and the use of modern technology and electronic marketing to discharge its product for its knowledge that this will mainly serve the farmers and serve the coffee sector and its country in general.

From the side of her care on the quality of the Yemeni products that she exports and to facilitate the work of the farmers, Mrs. Fatoum goes to the agricultural areas to buy coffee from the farmers themselves, especially when the demand for specialized coffee is by one of the main companies that deal with the POT . She gives them the necessary instructions through her advisory team that comes down with her, to apply value chain techniques from the beginning of the season to harvesting, proper drying, storing and coffee processing for export to reach customers with quality that meets their ambitions.

The philosophy that we possess in POT is directed, persistent, and ambitious policy in order to develop the coffee sector and expand its trade based on the basis that the revitalization of the coffee sector will not take place unless the product is absorbed and exported abroad at suitable prices to improve farmers ’income so that they can finally control the standards of quality and to apply value chains techniques automatically .So, the higher the quality of the product, the more the farmers receive a better price, and Mrs. Fatoum is aware that the coffee-growing areas in Yemen are limited and cannot be expanded in the same amount as in other coffee producing countries, but it can achieve high prices if it is able to produce a high quality of coffee.

We also depend on our policy and commercial plans that the quality of Yemeni coffee is worthy to attract customers on a very large scale, especially that its historical origins and its distinct and famous flavor make it a special advantage over other coffee produced by the giant countries in producing coffee.

As my father used to confirm, that coffee produced by coffee producing countries is supposed one day to become this coffee for the general public, while Yemeni coffee will know its way to distinguished companies that are always looking for the best.

Mrs. Fatoum said that the world must preserve the coffee fortune in Yemen because if the world knows the amount of diversity within the coffee crop, it will know that it is the way to improve the quality of the varieties that grown in other countries.

Fatoum Muslot says, whatever the circumstances that we are in, and whatever their negative effects, Yemen must regain its historical position because coffee has been the backbone of the Yemeni economy for hundreds of years. Today, and with the increasing of global demand for premium coffee besides improving the supply chain, there will be an opportunity to restore Yemen’s historical role in cultivating the favorite hot drink in America, Japan and all over the world.

Among the repercussions of the war, positive signs of charity began to dazzle everyone, represented by the blessed recovery phenomenon in the coffee sector as a clear indication of the beginning of a new era for the restoration of Yemen’s historical position in the production and export of this crop, which was of great benefit to Yemen and Yemenis in the past centuries. Yemen is one of the most coffee producing countries and started trade from what became today one of the most important agricultural commodities in the world, which is the second economic resource after oil, globally.

Even in the midst of the country’s ongoing civil war, coffee still provides a profitable opportunity for producers, investors and farmers. the high consumption demand for premium coffee bodes well for Yemen, which not only claims to have the oldest coffee culture in the world, but also some of the best coffee in the global market.

Contributing of humanitarian organizations and supporting bodies to develop coffee

To what extent are the humanitarian organizations and supporting bodies contributing to the development of Yemeni coffee?

Fatoum Muslot: In fact, there are certain entities that work in a tangible manner but are limited and provide technical and humanitarian aids to farmers. In the field of coffee, there are several agencies that worked to support coffee, including the GIZ, the FAO, the ACTED and the USAID Organization, but most of the support is focused on improving value chains while the coffee sector needs a great support in preserving the existing genetic diversity, which is subject to extinction. These organizations are not interested in working with the relevant official bodies, but they carry out their activities themselves without knowing what are the priorities of the interventions.

Yemeni coffee is an Arabica type, and all studies indicate that this type is subject to extinction due to the climatic changes, especially high temperatures, so coffee has begun to crawl to the narrow mountainous highlands, and we hope that support will be provided to protect it in any way.

The production of Yemeni coffee does not exceed twenty five thousand tons. Half of this production is sold in the local Yemeni market, which is sold at the same prices as coffee exported abroad. What is exported annually from Yemen is 7000 tons. Is not the world unable to absorb the rest five thousand tons of Yemeni coffee?

How can we increase the production area of ​​the coffee crop while we cannot market the produced quantities to the foreign markets?

Many coffee producing countries, such as Ethiopia, received international assistance from the United Nations, which encouraged the production process in many other countries, and now we in Yemen have established a research center and established a cooperative union for coffee producers .We are also national companies that have the ability to implement activities and programs to help farmers but we are not able to reach these directions even after we have prepared ourselves to receive such support.

We wonder who deserves assistance more than us in Yemen, because our country is ravaged by economic crises and crushed by conflicts, in addition our country has the largest stock and genetic diversity of coffee from which the world can benefit from and is in desperate need of assistance in order to be able to preserve it.

If these organizations and governments are committed to being neutral and unwilling to provide assistance to any of the conflicting parties, can they give aid to help coffee companies to work to absorb the crop through them and help the Research Center and the Cooperative Union of Coffee Producers Associations?

Many organizations and countries which sympathetic to the situation in Yemen help us with temporary food aid, while the farmer wants permanent assistance in order to be able to live continuously and be able to endure any conditions, no matter how harsh, and does not wait for aid to reach him and the Chinese proverb says (do not give me fish, but teach me how to fish).

Currently, American aid to the Yemeni coffee sector is the real aid that the Yemeni coffee sector has touched. We highly value this support.

American aid always focuses on the value chains and conveys new technologies to farmers in this aspect. Through our experience and proximity to farmers, they know how to deal with value chains techniques, but it is difficult for them to apply after that due to the lack of material capacity and also the low price of coffee.

In a new project that is currently being implemented by the Pragma Organization, with the finance from USAID, thinking has started to support the exporting national companies and strengthen their marketing capacity, and this is a correct orientation because if production is absorbed and exported, this will be positive for farmers ’income, and they will be able to apply the value chains themselves because if they produce a high quality of coffee, they will get a high price.

We hope that the Pragma and USAID organization will focus on the continuation of this trend in addition to the importance of support the research center because improving the performance of varieties and improving their production will make a real transformation in the coffee sector in the future.

We also appeal to the International Coffee Organization and all the relevant coffee organizations to have a role in helping us to market our coffee products.

Conclusion of the Interview  

Sweet Marias: Madam, What is the message that you would like to convey to the coffee users in the world at the conclusion of this meeting?

Through this interview I would like to convey a humanitarian message that the entire world must listen to. She says that we are of one origin father Adam “peace be upon him”. The whole world must sympathize with us and know how far this war has negatively affected the lives of poor Yemenis.

I appeal to all entities who has the ability to extend a helping hand to the Yemenis not to remain idle. We do not want food aid from you because it does not reach everyone but we want you to help them to live and here I will speak on the behalf of coffee farmers because I am a farmer and exporter and I know exactly what this category suffers.

Everyone who receives this message will have a humanitarian duty to estimate such conditions and contribute to alleviate the suffering of Yemeni coffee farmers and help them to secure food for their family by purchasing Yemeni coffee, which benefit more than a million people from working in it. it is not necessary for any company to buy coffee if it is not of high quality, we will not accept that to happen, but we hope that these importing companies will give an opportunity to taste this type of famous coffee.

All coffee drinkers must know that Yemeni coffee appeared to be exported from Yemen to their countries more than 300 years ago before they reached them from the rest of the countries and to appreciate the great effort and sacrifice that Yemeni farmers offer in order to reach the different customers of this distinguished type of coffee in the world and in dark time, and for everyone to know to what extent their purchase and absorption of this coffee will contribute to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni man who is exposed to death at every moment.

If the Yemeni coffee is excellent and deserves attention, then what is inhibiting the purchase.

I hope that Sweet Marias and the rest of our partners Coffee Importers Companies to make the coffee buyers know in general that even if they buy Yemeni coffee to help the Yemenis, they will get invaluable good coffee and that they also know how wars affected its production, its decreased area, and the increased cost of its production. In this difficult time, buying coffee crop from farmers is considered a support for them to continue to serve the crop because if the productive process of this crop does not continue as a result of the farmers ’inability to sell their produce, this diversity and the global human heritage will be subject to loss and deterioration and this will represent a great loss for all because Yemen maintains a very rich diversity and divine inheritance from this premium coffee.

I am very surprised at how the coffee importers refrain from buying the Yemeni coffee, whose farmers are at risk, as it was expected that many importing companies would sympathize with us, at least in order to preserve the coffee fields in one of the exporting countries, as this serves the interest of everyone, but unfortunately the opposite happened. we hope that these situations change. We do not receive the value until the quantities have been shipped and are on their way to the country of the importing company.

Finally, on behalf of the Yemeni farmers, I extend my sincere thanks to the American companies, including (Royal Coffee Company, Olam Americas Inc, Sweet Marias and Inter American Coffee GmbH – NKG group), which have responded to my calls and continued to demand for Yemeni coffee, and some of them doubled the demand during this ordeal. I do not forget to thank Pragma Organization, which also extended a helping hand to many Yemeni companies, including Tehama Pearl for Import and Export and assisted them in obtaining new buyers, which will provide many programs that support the development of Yemeni companies and raise their marketing and export capabilities in the coming days.

Read more from Fatoum Muslot on the contemporary Yemeni coffee sector

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