22 May 2017

Rwanda: New Mill Primed to Boost Specialty Coffee Exports

Photo: Nadege Imbabazi/The New Times
The new factory at Kigali Special Economic Zone.

A new dry coffee cherries processing mill got its cogmills running in Kigali, last week, with officials saying the plant will help boost Rwanda's specialty coffee exports.

The factory, at Kigali Special Economic Zone, already has an installed equipment, worth $700,000 (about Rwf585 million), and ready to process coffee.

It is expected to help Rwanda Trading Company (RTC), who are the owners, to double production capacity and further enhance quality of Rwandan coffee, according to the company's Managing Director Clay Parker.

"We are almost doubling our capacity with this mill. This mill can process seven tonnes per hour, and we can do close to three containers for export per day," Parker said, noting that they were only been able to export a container per day while processing with the old machine.

Each container carries about 19.2 tonnes of coffee.

The new facility will employ about 100 people on fulltime basis, according to Parker.

RTC started operations in Rwanda in 2009, with an operational base at Gikondo Industrial Area.

Parker, who was speaking during the launch of the mill last week, said all Rwandan coffee has ability to be specialty coffee. He said coffee is best when picked from the tree, which means that the quality starts from the farm.

Modern machine for high standards

Parker said the factory will be buying coffee produce from 80,000 farmers. Rwanda Trading Company procures over 20 million kilogrammes of coffee cherries per season.

"The equipment we have imported from Brazil is of modern standard. It allows us to maintain the highest quality throughout the supply chain and achieve high scoring coffee, and thus high premiums," he said.

The targeted export markets include the US, Europe and Asia.

The Director-General for Trade and Investment at Ministry of Trade, Industry and EAC Affairs, Robert Opirah, said the Government has emphasised value addition to coffee through processing, noting that this factory is well in line with the vision of what Rwanda wants to achieve, including producing high quality cherries, exporting high quality coffee and improving the livelihoods of farmers.

"We recognise the importance of the coffee sector and we are working hard through a number of institutions such as the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, and NAEB to ensure increased production through good agronomical practices including increasing fully washed coffee and increasing mineral fertiliser application from 4,300 tonnes to 5,000 tonnes," he said.

Targets

This year, the Government targets to export 22,650 tonnes of coffee, worth around $68 million, and 23,000 tonnes, worth $70 million, in the 2017/18 season, according to information from NAEB.

Fabien Kayumba, a farmer and president of Mutovu Coffee Washing Station in Nyamasheke District, said RTC buys their coffee produce and provides them with funds for coffee cherries from other farmers.

He said the firm has so far provided them with Rwf75 million this year to buy the cherries.

"As the company has a new advanced factory, we are going to produce more quality coffee cherries and dry them. By supplying quality coffee to the factory, the buyers will like it and we will benefit more," he told The New Times.

There are about 400,000 coffee farmers in Rwanda.

The entire facility launched, including the structure, is estimated to between $2 million and $3 million.

There are about 20 coffee dry mills in the country, according to figures from the National Agriculture Exports Development Board.

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