Rwandan coffee farmers expect a boost in incomes following the inauguration of a coffee roasting and packaging factory in Gikondo, Kigali.
The factory is owned by the Rwanda Farmers Coffee Company (RFCC) whose shareholders include the Clinton Hunter Development Initiative (CHDI), Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD), The Hunter Foundation (THF) and the National Agricultural Export Board (Naeb).
Presiding over the official opening of the factory on Friday, the Minister for Agriculture, Geraldine Mukeshimana, said the factory will help boost farmers’ income.
“This factory’s high production capacity will help increase the country’s competitiveness on the international market,” Minister Mukeshimana said.
The $3 million (about Rwf2.7 billion) facility has a production capacity of three tonnes of roasted coffee per day.
Innocent Uwimana, a worker at the factory, said the factory will produce under the brand ‘Gorilla’s coffee’ and will sell to local, regional, Asian and European markets.
“We have started to supply to McDonald hotels in UK. We have signed an agreement to supply them with 55 tonnes of roasted coffee annually. Late last year, we supplied seven tonnes and we are about to supply more,” Uwimana said.
He added: “One of our clients has given two coffee growing cooperatives from Muhanga and Rulindo districts a grant of $15,000 (about Rwf10.3m).This means out of the profits they get, 20 per cent of it is given back to farmers to boost coffee production .”
Jean D’arc Mugorewishyaka, the leader of “Abateraninkunga Shyori Cooperative” in Muhanga said the grant will help them improve farming activities.
“We are hopeful the new processing plant will also help us get better prices. We were initially earning Rwf50 per kilogramme of unprocessed product but we are now paid between Rwf170 and 200 per kilogramme,” she said.
Some buyers who attended the launch pledged to pay 14 pounds per kilogramme of roasted coffee up from about 5 pounds previously paid.
“There are several measures to fetch better prices for farmers. Within their cooperatives, they will be able to set up more processing plants which must gradually increase price per unprocessed kilogramme. We will also continue to engage coffee exporters to give grants to farmers out of their profits as many agreed,” said William Kayonga, the chief executive officer of Naeb.
Kayonga decried the absence of enough processing plants in the country with high production capacity. There are around five small coffee factories but the new high production capacity factory will be able to process more produce which is expected to double with time, he said.
Rwanda earns $60 million from coffee exports annually and targets to earn between $100 and $150 million per year.
Sir Tom Hunter from Clinton Hunter Development Initiative (CHDI), a shareholder in the new company described Rwandan coffee as high quality that will be fetching better prices abroad.
He promised to help farmers find more markets.