The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Coffee Washing and Export Promotion

The Minister of Trade and Industry, François Kanimba, has challenged owners of coffee washing stations to strengthen the coffee value chain in order to increase coffee export receipts.

The Minister says that the stations help link exporters to producers and also intervene in supporting farmers in access to inputs such as fertilisers.

"If we want coffee washing stations to be a real integrating centre of the value chain, most of the extension services in the coffee sector should be implemented by managers of coffee washing stations under a clear arrangement with government," Kanimba said.

According to the Minister, the move will enable stakeholders share experiences, hence boosting farmers' confidence in exporters.

"I think in terms of building an integrated coffee industry value chain, we need to think more of coffee washing stations to be sure that they are becoming a real integrating centres of the whole value chain,' he said.

Some coffee farmers say that exporters do not care about the challenges farmers, face but instead are (exporters) interested in their harvest and at a cheap farm gate price.

"They (exporters) always target the beginning of season and come to take our coffee and they come and give us the price they want," said Frigence Nzeyimana, a coffee farmer from Rulindo.

He adds; "I cannot continue planting coffee when am not getting enough from it, especially when we are failing to get what we have put in".

Currently, farmers are getting about Rwf300 a kilo as farm gate prices for coffee beans, a higher price compared to Rwf100 in 2007.

Alex Kanyankore, Director General National Agricultural Export Board (NAEB) says the change in farm gate prices is caused by global changing prices, but says that there is always control to ensure prices don't go below by 15 per cent on the current price.

"Improving harvests has greatly improved and we expect to see an increase in production and we embarking on turnaround program to increase their (wash stations) capacity," he said

According to Kanimba a disintegrated value chain has led a reduction in harvests thus lowering exports, which he says can be addressed by washing stations linking the whole chain.

"These exporters were not concerned with what is happening in production, and there was no working relationship between exporters and producers."

He adds that such a situation has created an impression where farmers have always thought that the income from coffee is misappropriated by those who export their coffee.

Moreover, farmers trust in the owners of coffee washing stations has been lowering which has lead to some washing stations failing to get coffee to process.

"Coffee farmers should have a significant ownership in every credible coffee washing station, it is not necessary that farmers should have 100 percent ownership," the Minister said

Nevertheless, there is need for farmers to get organized under cooperatives, an issue that calls for strengthening of cooperatives.

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