Cup of Excellence making a difference in premier coffee production

Production of the finest coffees in the country is expected to go up after three years of hosting and promoting Rwandan coffee through the annual Cup of Excellence competition, an official said.
Coffee tasters during a past Cup of Excellence awards; The event is due to kick off at the end of this month. The New Times / File.
Coffee tasters during a past Cup of Excellence awards; The event is due to kick off at the end of this month. The New Times / File.

Production of the finest coffees in the country is expected to go up after three years of hosting and promoting Rwandan coffee through the annual Cup of Excellence competition, an official said.

This year’s contest is slated for the end of August. Pre-selection of contending coffees has already been conducted soon to be followed by a national and international Jury. This year, a total of 169 lots were received at the pre selection stage and 105 coffees selected for the next stages.

The International Jury is scheduled for August 25, 2012 with a team of about 25 to 30 participants expected from Sweden, Norway, Japan, Taiwan, Belgium and various America states expected to attend.

Briefing the press, the Director General of National Agricultural and Export Development Board, Alex Kanyankole, said the competition targets to increase production, exports and improve quality of coffee.

He said the Cup Of Excellence event has improved the competitive spirit among coffee farmers and coffee washing stations. The major benefit of the competition is the Cup of Excellence award label that is judged by professional cuppers as the best.

“There is an extra effort registered in the quality of coffee since we started hosting the Cup of Excellence (competition) and we need to build on this to increase revenues, which is the primary goal,” said Kanyankole.

Comparing the trend since 2008 when the number of winning coffees numbered 26 in 2010 and 36 last year, the country anticipates that the number is likely to go higher this year driven by awareness created among farmers.

Coffee sector is targeting to generate $157 million from exports by the 2017, compared to $78 million expected from the export of 24,000 tonnes of the commodity this year.

The first phase involved sensitising farmers and coffee washing stations on how they can participate in the competition, collection of samples, pre-selection, national jury to sip and sniff out the best coffee before leaving international judges to select the best coffees.

Coffees with above 90 points are awarded with Presidential awards, while those that score 85 and 90 points are awarded the Cup of Excellence award.

An internet auction is scheduled for October. This is the stage where farmers fetch the best prices with prices ranging from US$3 and US$6 per kilogramme of specialty coffee.

“Whenever prices are going up at the international market, it’s a good thing for us and to farmers but it has not come to our notice that it would have some inflationary tendencies,” Kanyankole said.

According to NAEB, farmers keep 65 per cent of the total revenues generated from the auction which they use to improve their operations.

According to Kanyankole, after the competition, farmers receive an average of Rwf800, 000 to Rwf1 million depending on the quality they submitted.

Coffee auctioned on the internet in 2010 sold a record high of $51.94 per kilogramme compared to between US$4-5 per kilogramme for good quality standard coffee traded at major coffee shops.   

Since 1999, the Cup of Excellence contest is held annually in many coffee producing countries, including Brazil, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Colombia. Rwanda is the only African country that hosts the event.

 “To farmers, it’s so important to win the Cup of Excellence, because they are exhilarated to be acknowledged for their dedication to quality,” a statement from COE twitter page reads.  

The Director of Quality Control, Inspection and Standards Compliance at NAEB, Eric Ruganintwali, noted that other than the awards, Cup of Excellence has been a platform to link farmers, exporters and coffee roasters where useful contacts are exchanged. He said that each coffee washing station is entitled to submit three lots with each lot weighing 1.5 tonnes.

“This is good for the sector, we have seen coffee washing stations increase from 189 to 215 and farmers improve their business and welfare,” he said.

Farmers receive recognition as quality producers a move that facilitates coffee roasters and importers to expand their operations.

The Executive Secretary of Maraba Coffee Cooperative, Theophile Biziyaremye told Business Times that his cooperative had won the award thrice saying it was an encouragement to members in addition to creating competition with the sector.

The cooperative won the award in 2008, 2010 and 2011, in that order, yet Biziyaremye is still confident of winning this years’ competition.

“It has created a positive impact to the cooperative to our members through prioritising quality,” he observed.

Biziyaremye said farmers whose coffees won awards have also resorted to animal husbandry to produce manure thereby improving the quality of their yields.

According to the Biziyaremye, last year, the cooperative submitted four lots and two of them emerged victorious.  This year, it submitted eight lots and he is optimistic that all would be triumphant. The cooperative operates in five sectors and owns four washing stations.

 

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