An online coffee mini-auction to taste and buy coffee from East African member states as well as international buyers to bid is set for launch in Mombasa, Kenya this week.
The initiative will be unveiled at the forum that will bring together stakeholders across the coffee value chain in East African starting today.
"During the weeklong forum, a special coffee cupping session and first of its kind online mini-auction will offer participants the opportunity to taste and buy coffee from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania and international buyers to bid and purchase through the online facility," the Director General Customs and Trade at the EAC Secretariat Mr Kenneth Bagamuhunda said.
The EAC Coffee Business Forum organised jointly with the African Fine Coffee Conference and Exhibition is financed by the European Union through the Market Access Upgrade Programme (MARKUP) that provide supports to small and mediumsized enterprises across the region to improve access to EU markets and increase interregional trade.
EU Member Countries including Germany, Italy, Belgium, Sweden and Spain, which are among the top 10 buyers of coffee from the EAC region.
The forum will involve interactive discussions, workshops and networking events.
"Coffee is such an important global commodity and one in which EAC countries could and should be extremely competitive. Earnings from coffee exports represent a significant share of the EAC revenues with the average share of coffee in total merchandise exports exceeding 20 per cent today," he noted.
Increasing coffee exports from Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda could have considerable positive impact on EAC's economic development.
Yet this impact can only be achieved if some challenges such as the existing trade barriers and limited access to finance are overcome.
Moreover, factors such as quality compliance, value addition, packaging and branding are critical in determining market access and incomes that accrue to the exporting countries and enterprises.
Key themes to be addressed include the removal of coffee trade barriers with a spotlight on the World Trade Organisation Trade Facilitation Agreement, innovative mechanisms to facilitate access to credit, buyer and investor priorities globally and how regional growers and traders can capitalise on the new opportunities.
According to International Trade Centre TradeMap, the EAC region earned close to 1 billion US dollars from coffee exports in 2018, an increase of 7 per cent from 2014.
The Executive Director of the ITC, Arancha Gonzalez Laya said, "The MARKUP initiative has contributed to the growth of the coffee industry in the EAC through helping small businesses address many of the barriers to market that they face."
This week's EAC Coffee Business Forum will further drill down on issues such as access to finance, meeting quality standards and marketing and branding that will help these SMES move up the value chain and increase their competitiveness, including through highlighting the potential for greater intraregional and cross border trade such as to the EU market.