The New Times (Kigali)

30 August 2008

Rwanda: Coffee Sector Given Major Boost As Country Hosts Cup of Excellence

Kigali — Coffee farmers in the country have been extolled and boosted for outstanding quality production as the country hosted the first ever 'Cup of Excellence' - the most esteemed award given out to top coffees in the world.

The prestigious ceremony that concluded late in the evening yesterday was attended by President Paul Kagame, senior government officials and foreign dignitaries, among others.

Albeit not being the largest grower in Africa, the country hosted the first international specialty coffee competition in Africa at Jali Club.

After the pre-selection phase in which 125 coffees were involved, only 50 remained for the national jury level until 24 samples qualified for the Cup of Excellence level.

The 24 coffees chosen by a select group of national and international cuppers were presented with special awards.

Rwandan cuppers Regina Niyonsaba and Claire Kampeta, together with other cuppers from UK, Sweden, Guatemala, Japan, and the USA, among others, graced the occasion.

Multisector Investment Group Ltd (MIG) and FAKCO - Rulindo took first and second places respectively.

President Kagame thanked the organisers as well as the coffee farmers for what has been an exceptional year for the crop.

"Exercises such as these give us an opportunity to reflect on our country's development agenda and the developments made towards achieving our vision," he said, while emphasizing a strategy of modernizing the agricultural sector.

The president underscored the importance of producing high quality coffee for export to contribute to development of farmers and the country in general. He also assured farmers of the government's support in creating a good business environment.

"We will all play a vital role to achieve our goals," he said, referring to matters concerning solving any possible barriers.

Suzie Spindler, the Executive Director of Alliance of the Coffee Cup of Excellence, said she was thrilled to be in Rwanda and to hold the forty-second competition - the first on African soil.

"You Rwanda coffee farmers are today the envy of the African continent. This is a phenomenal case for a country that has been willing to push for excellence," she pointed out.

She stressed that the event was an indicator of how important Rwandan coffee is to the world since the awards will put Rwandan farmers in the top ten world producers.

"The entire Rwandan coffee industry has done such a phenomenal job," she said. According to Spindler, all farmers who participated will be listed on the Cup of Excellence website.

The best 24 coffees, which scored 84% and above will be auctioned at a special session to be held on October 14 and could fetch as much as 40$ a kilo.

The remaining finalists, though they did not make it to the finals, also attracted a lot of attention from international buyers and will also be auctioned this Sunday.

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