The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Japanese Coffee Cuppers Commend Nation's Coffee

A group of Japanese coffee cuppers and importers are impressed with the quality of Rwandan coffee and promised to increase imports.

The delegation of 30 people has been in the country for the last four days where they interacted with coffee processors and exporters across the country.

"The volume from Rwanda is not so big but it is of high quality; we made useful contacts and hopefully the volume will also increase," said the head of the delegation, Hisasi Yamada.

Yamada is also the Director of Japan External Trade Organisation based in Tokyo. Japan imports 100 tonnes of Rwandan coffee annually.

He said Japanese importers have been buying Rwandan coffee through European importers or from Kenya. They now plan to ship the commodity directly from the country.

He, however, pointed out that Japanese importers are challenged by in land transportation hitches from Rwanda, which is very expensive compared to Tanzania and Kenya.

"It is costly but we cover it because Japanese consumers and importers are mainly targeting specialty coffee," Yamada added.

Japan consumes 30 per cent of the world's specialty coffee.

"They are very impressed with our coffee, they say its appealing to Japanese consumers and they import between three and five tonnes of speciality coffee per year," Alex Kanyankole, the Director General of National Agriculture Export Promotion Board (NAEB), said.

He added that the event is annual where a delegation from Japanese External Trade Organisation visits the diverse coffee washing stations and interacts with local coffee processors and exporters.

Deputy Director General in charge Export Operations and Market Development, Ndambe Nzaramba, said Rwanda's specialty coffee sells highly in Japan, US$3 above the usual prices in other countries.

"Having a big group like this looking at one commodity it will increase the visibility and hopefully be reflected in the volumes imported," Ndambe said.

The country's foreign exchange earnings from tea and coffee rose by 8.9 per cent and 34 per cent in 2011, respectively. Coffee revenues in 2011 recorded US$75m up from US$56m in 2010.

The increase is attributed to favourable prices on the international market and most importantly the high demand for the country's high quality output.

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