13 January 2014

Rwanda: NAEB Moves to Boost Tea and Coffee Production

The national Agriculture Exports Board (NAEB) has embarked on a plan to increase coffee and tea production and take advantage of the huge export markets.

This comes after the values and volumes for tea and coffee exports, Rwanda's leading export revenue earners after tourism dipped during the last half of last year.

Coffee exports went down with receipts of $50 million in the first eleven months of 2013. This means the crop is unlikely to earn beyond $55m, a 9.7 per cent decline from $60.9m in 2012 (with only December statistics yet to be released).

Tea exports didn't perform any better either in the first 11 months of 2013, fetching $56.5m during the year, down from $63.9m the previous year.

However, Corneille Ntakirutimana, the director in charge of production at NAEB, said in spite of the poor performance of agro-export, strategies have already been put in place to increase volumes and improve product quality to boost earnings.

"Since the start of this growing season late last year, we have been dispatched both coffee and tea seedlings to farmers that we project will almost double volumes in three-five years ahead," he explained.

He said that so far, 13,650,000 tea and 8,073,000 coffee seedlings been planted countrywide.

He also noted that they will construct water dams to harvest rain water which will then be used for irrigation during the dry seasons.

Ntakirutimana noted that the agriculture also faces the challenge of lack of skills among farmers and agro-processors.

"There is also the problem of high power rates that is discouraging agro-processing, especially among SMEs," he said.

The board targets to increase tea and coffee export earnings to $147m and $157m annually by 2017.

Agriculture is the main economic activity for the majority of Rwandans, employing 80 per cent of the population. It accounts for a third of Rwanda's Gross Domestic Product and provides 90 per cent of the national food needs and generates over 70 per cent of the country's export revenues.

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