Africa: Acram and ITC Rally to Boost African Robusta After a Difficult Year

The Africa and Madagascar Robusta Coffee Agency (ACRAM) held its annual meetings and 9th General Assembly the last week of April in Lomé, Togo, and virtually. It was an opportunity to rally strength and plan the way forward for African Robusta after a trying year.

The event was organized in partnership with the International Trade Centre's (ITC) Alliances for Action programme in the context of the European Union (EU) and Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) 'Business Friendly programme', which is being jointly implemented by ITC, the World Bank and UNIDO.

2020 was a difficult year for all because of COVID-19. For ACRAM, it had a particularly strong impact on the region's coffee exports - particularly from Côte d'Ivoire, Togo and Cameroon.

Escipión OLIVIERA GOMEZ, Assistant Secretary General Structural Economic Transformation and Trade at the OACPS stressed the need for regional and sectoral alliances for them to recover and grow:

'The Covid-19 Pandemic has proven that global challenges cannot be addressed alone. New policies must address the challenges OACPS small firms and producers find themselves up against, targeting vulnerable groups especially. The ACRAM and ITC Robusta Coffee Conference has come at the right time to plan concrete action to address these challenges across the coffee value chain.'

To stay on course in its mission to promote the ACRAM region's Robusta coffee, the talks focused on the launch of a Coffee Academy in partnership with ITC and the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), the promotion of gender equity in the sector, capacity building on business development and finance tools, South-South trade opportunities and the overall strategy to relaunch and promote African Robusta coffee.

The event's proceedings emphasized the need to develop Robusta coffee cultivation and improve marketing and networking efforts in the goal of achieving a better positioning of African coffee on the international market and guarantee a better income for producers. Plans are also in the works to provide capacity building on coffee sensory analysis (cupping) and coffee quality evaluation, through the Coffee Academy.

ACRAM stakeholders are also keen to replicate CLAC-Fairtrade and ITC's Alliances for Action Golden Cup Competition, a contest that promotes high-quality Fairtrade coffees nationally and internationally. It encourages value addition and fair income distribution by producing and commercializing quality coffees from producers who guarantee sustainable production processes.

Regional coffee sector players demonstrated commitment to lending support on planned interventions. 'The EU-OACPS Business Friendly program has strong strategic alignment to Ghana Government Policy to revive the coffee sector. The project's Alliances for Action sustainable agribusiness methodology enhances its potential impact. We are ready to play a leading role in helping it deliver.' (Madam Ivy Cynthia Osei-Sampah, Executive Secretary, Coffee Federation of Ghana.)

The involvement of women in the supply chain - currently low in the coffee sector - was another discussion priority. 'We would like women not only to find themselves in plantations but also at all levels of the value chain. Whether they are exporters, processors, researchers, or even cuppers" said Honorable Tomaino Ndam Njoya, Cameroon, Chair of the Gender Committee.

M. Kodjo ADEDZE, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Local Consumption in Togo recognised the challenges the African Robusta coffee sector is now up against and shared his optimism on tackling them through joint action and partnership, in particular with ITC's Alliances for Action and the firm support from the OACPS and the EU.

Enselme Gouthon, President of ACRAM, closed the event congratulating stakeholders on the results obtained during the week's exchanges and confident on next steps with such committed partnerships and clear strategies at play. This, he said, is a big step in the history of ACRAM and a solid indicator of the progress to come.

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