US buyers to host key specialty coffee marketing, cupping event in Rwanda

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Women sort coffee beans. Women coffee coops will target global buyers at the Kigali event.

Global specialty coffee buyers and promoters will in June converge in Kigali as the country’s hosts one of the biggest coffee marketing and cupping events. ‘Let’s Talk Coffee Rwanda’ is organised by US-based Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers and will attract 56 coffee cooperatives representing over 13,000 women throughout the country. The five-day event, scheduled for June 7-11 at the Kigali Marriott Hotel, is expected to be the biggest yet to be hosted in Africa and targets this year’s main harvest, the organisers said in a statement.

“This event will give buyers a unique opportunity to taste 30 specially selected coffees from across Rwanda, while also being able to build direct relationships with the women behind them,” they added.

Dr Celestin Gatarayiha, the coffee division manager at National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB), said the event will help in building a strong relationship between the women coffee producers and the buyers, which will ensure a steady market for their produce.

In addition to cuppings and platforms for direct sales, the event will include farm, cooperative and washing station visits, as well as an educational programme covering such topics as leveraging government innovation in Rwanda, building climate resilience, and developing private-public collaborations. It will feature a ‘Build your own lot’ programme, “allowing buyers to take home their favourite selections from the cupping table.”

“Buyers will meet the coffee producers and visit the farms where the crop is produced, giving farmers an opportunity to negotiate contracts directly from the producers. The visit will also create trust among buyers,” Gatarayiha said in an interview with The New Times yesterday.

He added that this is very important as it will help improve their lives as well as uplift the coffee sector as a whole.

This will be the first ‘Let’s Talk Coffee Rwanda’ event since Bloomberg Philanthropies committed a $10 million grant last September to Sustainable Harvest’s non-profit sister organisation, the Relationship Coffee Institute, designed to improve the lives of women coffee producers in sub-Saharan Africa through social and economic empowerment.

About the coffee

Gatarayiha said the coffee cooperatives are based in 11 different districts from all the provinces in the country. Women are producing specialty coffee, processed in the coffee washing stations, with high quality. They are involved in producing coffee from the field up to the market.

He said the agro-exports body is working with two coffee cooperatives in Nyaruguru and Kayonza to ensure quality along the whole supply value chain. The two cooperatives have a membership of 4,000.

“However, NAEB is working to increase the number of women in the production of coffee to 25,000 within the next three years.”

“NAEB and Sustainable Harvest Rwanda work together to promote women in coffee by supporting them to produce high quality coffee that is competitive on the specialty coffee market, and respond to the need of buyers. Through producing and trading specialty coffee, these women can be able to generate good revenues and improve their lives and those of their families,” he said, adding that NAEB participates actively in the ‘Let’s talk coffee’ events.

‘Let’s Talk Coffee’

‘Let’s Talk Coffee’ is now in its fifteenth year, historically offering one large global LTC event per year, plus occasional ‘Let’s Talk Coffee’ regional events focused on specific countries of origin. All of the events are designed to include a wide range of stakeholders and voices from throughout the coffee chain, while promoting empowerment and equity for producers. Rwanda last hosted the event two years ago in 2015.