The quality of coffee is critical in the marketing of the beans locally and on the global arena. This fact is not lost on one of the major coffee producing areas in Rwanda, Nyamasheke District.
The district has been attracting investors to setup more coffee washing stations to help increase the quality and quantity of coffee production. The initiative also aims at job-creation as part of efforts to support realisation of the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II) objectives.
Coffee production in Nyamasheke contributes at least Rwf3 billion of the farmers’ income per year, according to district officials. The officials said seven new washing coffee stations will be commissioned this year, increasing the number of stations from 50 to 57 stations across the district, Polyphile Harerimana, the district cash crops officer, said. He added that besides boosting quality, the growing number of stations will increase farmers’ revenue and support economic growth.
Besides, doubling the proportion of coffee exported as fully-washed, Rwanda could increase coffee exports by 10-20 per cent, according to a study done in 2015. Only 30 per cent of Rwanda’s coffee is characterised as fully-washed at export and, yet coffee washing stations operate at little more than 50 per cent capacity.
Nyamasheke District has been attracting more investors in coffee production since 2013 when one of coffee washing stations in the district scooped the best coffee producer during the fourth edition of Rwanda Cup of Excellence competition. The annual contest rewards the best local coffee and is the most esteemed international award given to farmers with quality coffee. “Before the introduction of washing stations, coffee had less value and one kilogramme would cost about one dollar. But since washing stations were created the cost of the crop increased up to four dollars,” Harerimana said.
Karambi, Macuba and Nyabitekeri sectors located near the shores of Lake Kivu are some of the areas in the district that are favourable for coffee growing. Rwanda mainly grows Arabica coffee given its mountainous nature.
Harerimana said the district targets to produce 16,000 tonnes of coffee this year. Last year, the production was more than 11,000 tonnes while in 2015, the district produced 14,000 tonnes. He said this year farmers have increased use of fertilisers to 821 tonnes, adding that trees are also sprayed to guard against pests and diseases.
A 2015 survey showed that the number of coffee trees in Nyamasheke has increased to 13 million, up from eight millions of trees in 2009.
During the 2015 edition of Cup of Excellence competition, eight coffee washing stations from Nyamasheke were among the top 20 finishers. Therefore, it is no surprise that more investors are putting their money in the district’s coffee sector. Harerimana said the district works closely with farmers to ensure quality along the value chain to guarantee better returns. Annonciata Mukandanga, a farmer, said the increasing number of washing stations will boost morale as farmers will be assured of ready market, adding that it will also ensure quality of the crop.
Andre Iyakaramye, another farmer, said the setting up of more washing stations in the district has helped increase farmers’ income and welfare, adding that he is now classified in the third category in Ubudehe classification, thanks to coffee farming.
Rwanda’s coffee exports grew by 10.9 per cent in volume over the first half of last year, with 5,956.9 tonnes shipped out compared to 5,141 tonnes of coffee that were exported over the same period in 2015, according to figures from the central bank.