Rwanda’s coffee export earnings remained high in August this year even as the poor weather conditions witnessed early this year weighed down on production.
Rwanda earned $10m from the export of the commodity in August, up from $5.6m a month earlier.
Coffee, alongside tea, is the country’s leading foreign exchange cash crop revenue earner.
The National Agricultural Export Board (NAEB) attributes the increase to intensified marketing strategies the board has put in place and improvement in coffee processing, which steps up the quality of the crop.
“We have enough market for our coffee; what we are looking at now is to improve our quality and increase production,” Alex Kanyankore, the NAEB Managing Director told Business Times in an earlier interview.
Erratic weather conditions affected most crops, lowering harvests, thus leading to low export receipts and low supplies of the country’s leading cash crops.
Rwanda sold 2.7 million kilogrammes of coffee in August.
In an interview with The New Times, some farmers said that the positive performance in terms of coffee exports does not reflect their earnings as middlemen and coffee processing companies buy their coffee at lower prices compared to what they earn on the international market.
“We don’t determine the price,” Frigence Nzeyimana, a coffee farmer said.
Farm-gate prices fluctuated between Rwf170 and Rwf300 per kilogramme between January and August.
However, Kanyankore says that despite changes in the global coffee market, there has been an effort to stabilise farmgate prices to boost production.
“The price changes is a universal thing that happens in coffee production in the whole world but what we are trying to do is to make sure we minimise the price change by not exceeding 15 per cent,” he added.
Mark Bagabe, Director General of Rwanda Bureau of Standards (RBS), said “Our coffee is highly in demand, but as we all know, every market has its standards; this means that exporters should ensure that they meet standard requirements of these markets,”
“The challenge we still have is that we are exporting unroasted coffee, which is also poorly packed.”
Coffee washing stations have increased to almost 200, up from 12 seven years ago. Although this has improved the competitiveness of Rwandan coffee on the international market, experts say that the washing stations still lack capacity to cater for growing supplies from farmers.
“The problem that still exists is the poor management of washing stations by cooperatives that still have low capacity in modern management,” Bagabe explained.
Kanyankore added, “we have started a turnaround programme where we train station managers on modern management and have seen an improvement.”
Coffee export earnings rose to $75 million in 2011, from $56 million a year earlier.