FOR THE last six years now, Rwanda’s coffee sector has suffered from the effects of the ‘potato taste’ defect. The potato taste defect, which researchers say is caused by an insect pest, the antestia bug, compromises the quality of specialty coffee on the global market, while the bug affects coffee output. This therefore calls for more interventions to combat the defect before it gets out of hand and brings the coffee industry to its knees. Stakeholders, including the Agriculture ministry, dealers, processors, farmers, academics, researchers, and the National Agricultural Export Development Board, need to collaborate closely if we are to find a solution. The challenge threatens the lives of many Rwandans who depend on coffee as their main source of income, and puts the economy on the edge as the country loses millions of hard currency annually. The industry suffers on two fronts; through loss of revenue and poor coffee output.
As such, NAEB has its job cut out since the bug thrives mostly where crop husbandry is poor. This is the time for NAEB to scale up initiatives to promote good crop husbandry among farmers, and also ensure that coffee handling along the supply chain meets minimum standards. If farmers can get rid of ‘potato taste’, this could boost output and minimise chances of the defect. In the meantime, NAEB should sensitise farmers and other stakeholders on these challenges, and mobilise more funding for its training centres and extension services to help reduce spread of the bug.
However, collaboration among all the stakeholders will be essential in finding a lasting solution.