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Abidjan — A rare West African coffee variety may soon become extinct. The arabusta, a hybrid of the better-known robusta and arabica varieties, was developed in Ivory Coast in the 1960s. Under its first president, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, researchers were told to look for an alternative to robusta, deemed too strong and bitter. The finer arabica needs high altitude and cannot grow in the West African nation. "The arabusta is a high-quality blend," said Andre Braud-Mensah, founder of the Ivoryblue coffee brand and the first to produce capsules from local coffee. "It has the strength of the robusta but also the lightness and floral taste of the arabica." While output has barely reached 100 tonnes since its inception, it’s now dropped to almost zero, according to Braud-Mensah.

Once the biggest grower of arabusta, the cash-strapped national agronomic research centre has all but abandoned its 100ha set aside for the variety. The government said last month it plans to take over and r...

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