23 January 2013

Rwanda: Coffee Export Earnings Drop Despite Increase in Volumes

Rwanda's coffee export revenue dropped to $60.9m (about Rwf38.4b) last year from $73m the previous year. Experts attributed the drop to a decline in international coffee prices. However, the volumes were higher than the year before.

Accordingly to statistics from the National Agricultural Export Board, 16,989 tonnes of coffee were exported between January and December 2012, with the total annual production at 21,000 tonnes. This compares to 16,000 tonnes produced in 2011, fetching $73m.

Frigence Nzeyimana, a coffee farmer from Rulindo, noted that farm-gate prices for the crop fluctuated between Rwf200 and Rwf300 over the year.

"We didn't get enough money from our harvests as we had expected because the buyers were always telling us that global coffee prices had dropped," he added.

Alex Kanyankole, the director general of the National Agricultural Export Board, said the export board was looking at value addition and improving quality to give the country's coffee a competitive advantage in international markets, which will ultimately increase revenues.

"In this regard, we want to increase the number of coffee washing stations, which went up to 210 last year from just two washing stations in 2002," he added.

In 2012, 6,900 tonnes of washed coffee were produced, of which 5,500 tonnes were exported, bringing in $23.789m, compared to 32 tonnes in 2002.

To promote quality, Kanyankole said the export board started a campaign, where different coffees competed for the Cup of Excellence, with the best coffee earnings the highest price tag. The competition was meant to promote best coffees all over the world and support farmers, targeting farmers who supply fresh cherries.

"We are also focusing on the rehabilitation of coffee plantations and providing farmers with quality seeds," Kanyankole said.

He said they had already done different studies to identify the seeds that suit Rwandan soils.

To date, Rwanda produces between about 600 and 700 tonnes of green coffee per hectare per year. The National Agricultural Export Board targets 1,000 tonnes. Ways to achieve this include improving coffee extension services, enhanced fertiliser application and sensitising of farmers about good agricultural practices Kanyankole said.

Also, the board showcases Rwandan coffees across the world to create new markets. Last year, it participated at the 9th East African Fine Coffees Association conference and exhibition in Addis Ababa and another exhibition in Seoul, South Korea.

It also organised a barista training (professional coffee brewing course) in collaboration with the African Barista Network, attracting 22 participants from hotels, restaurants and coffee shops countrywide.

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