Producing high yield and quality coffee is a challenge for smallholder coffee farmers due to high investment in the production process.
In addition, the farmers do not have a strong and sustainable links to potential buyers. These, coupled with rudimentary techniques at coffee washing stations (or wet mills) which affect quality of coffee, affect farmers’ revenue and causes them to be vulnerable to coffee price volatility.
To address the problem, Twin is currently implementing a project funded by Trade Mark East Africa (TMEA), which aims to increase the capacity of targeted twenty smallholder farmers’ organizations in Rwanda and Burundi.
The project supports coffee farmers’ cooperatives to access specialty coffee market. This is achieved through training farmers to improve the quality of their coffee and helping them reach coffee buyers willing to pay better prices.
As part of the project, from July 19- 20, 2016, Twin and TMEA held a validation workshop on coffee quality control through best practices at wet mills across East Africa. Participants in the workshop included Coffee Board Representatives from East African countries, coffee buyers from USA and Europe and representatives of coffee cooperatives under the project.
The function involved coffee cupping sessions carried out from Starbucks laboratory in Kigali, in which both international and national coffee cuppers observed and ranked the taste and aroma of 23 coffee samples from the region. Of the samples tested, 10 were from Rwanda and 10 from Burundi.
Bahati Thierry, a coffee farmer and Manager of a coffee washing station for COPAKAKI Dutegure- a cooperative of coffee farmers in Kibuye (Karongi District) and Boniface Habonimana the manager of COCOCA, a coffee farmer cooperatives’ union in Burundi said the project has improved their capacities to produce high quality coffee, helped them expand the market by linking them with potential buyers and assisted them to access fair trade certification.
Richard Anstead, Twin Managing Director said, “We work to strengthen producer organizations, we help to build resilience and stronger strategy so that they take a more active part in trade like controlling prices [and] their destiny. Our approach is to work across the value chain for farmers to earn more revenues.”
“We are working in US, European marketing including UK, Japan and other Asian markets, and Latin America where we are promoting and creating demand for coffee.”
Twin is a UK-based development organization working with 33 producer organizations representing 300,000 coffee, cocoa and nut smallholders in 17 countries across Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Patience Mutesi, Trade Mark East Africa Country Director, said “We realized that within the region we focus on export of raw materials, with very limited value addition. Everything that we do, we are helping them get better value for their products.”
Ensuring coffee quality for good price guarantee
Katherine Nolthe Ferguson, senior coffee marketer at Twin said that “By producing high quality coffee, buyers will need more coffee than farmers can produce. This will ensure good coffee prices and that Twin and trade Mark East TMEA partnership will help farmers achieve this goal.”
Eric Ruganintwali, Quality Assurance and Regulatory Division Manager at NAEB noted that Rwanda’s first coffee target is to produce high quality coffee through good farming practices and encouraging farmers to take their coffee produce to the coffee washing stations for needed treatment, adding that the contribution of players like Twin is very beneficial.
Twin Regional Manager, Emmanuel Harelimana, noted that coffee washing stations coffee cherries should be processed within 10 hours after harvest to prevent over fermentation. He also said that at the coffee washing stations all defects should be removed from cherries and processed parchment coffee because buyers, mainly at the international market, need high quality coffee that maintains its flavor with no ‘foreign materials’ in it.
The National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) annual report for 2014/15 indicated that in the coffee value chain, the 2014/15 fiscal year, 16,529 Metric tonnes were exported generating $64.02 million in revenues.
In 2015/16, figures from NAEB indicate that 18,793.3 Metric tonnes of coffee were exported with over $62 million earnings. The drop in earnings was as a result of coffee prices in the international market.
The government projected to produce 29,000 Metric tonnes of coffee in 2016 with the fully washed coffee accounting for 59% compared to 50.3% of the coffee production in 2015.