Rwanda, Japan in a new drive to increase coffee exports

A Japanese delegation of coffee roasters and investors is visiting Rwanda to explore business opportunities and coffee specialties in the country.
Japanese coffee roasters   experiencing Rwanda's specialty coffee. The coffee experts tipped farmers on value addition and quality along value chain. (Peterson Tumwebaze)
Japanese coffee roasters experiencing Rwanda's specialty coffee. The coffee experts tipped farmers on value addition and quality along value chain. (Peterson Tumwebaze)

A Japanese delegation of coffee roasters and investors is visiting Rwanda to explore business opportunities and coffee specialties in the country.

The coffee experts are here as part of a plan to strengthen business partnership between Rwanda’s coffee cooperatives and Japanese roasters, Dr Celestin Gatarayiha, the Head of the coffee chain division at National Agriculture Export Board (NAEB) said.

“They are equally here to share experiences and best practices in coffee plantations and strategic plans on how we can widen our market in Japan,” Dr. Gatarayiha noted.

Yuko Itoi, the Head the delegation, said, the overall objective is to understand the country’s coffee value chain production and productivity so as to strengthen the marketability of the country’s coffee in Japan.

“We are seeking closer connections with farmers so that we can understand the challenges involved and how we can work together in providing solutions,” Yuko, owner and founder of Time’s Club Japan said.

The roasters appreciated steps taken by the export body in boosting coffee quality along value chain.

“It is important for Rwanda to always participate in coffee trade exhibitions and competitions as one of the strategies to market the country’s coffee.”

Time’s Club purchased more than nine tonnes of Rwandan coffee in 2015.

Rwanda’s coffee export revenues increased to $8.3 million (about Rwf6.5 billion) during the first three months of 2016, up from $6.6 million over the same period in 2015.

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Farmers harvesting coffee in Kayonza District. (File)

The country exported 3,310,339 million kilos of coffee during the first quarter of 2016 up from 1,824,629million kilos during the same period in 2015.

The export body attributes the improved performance to increased production and good agronomical practices, including embracing coffee washing stations and fertilizer application, among other initiatives.

NAEB has been emphasising value addition and encouraging farmers and cooperatives to take advantage of coffee washing stations to boost the quality of coffee exports, a statement from NAEB indicated.

This signals how serious government is taking the sector when it comes it contribution towards narrowing its trade deficit.

More than 400,000 farmers depend on coffee farming for their livelihood. There are currently 229 coffee washing stations across the country.

More importantly, NAEB has unveiled a five-year strategic plan aimed at increasing coffee exports. The strategic plan seeks to increase coffee exports to an annual average growth rate of 29% to achieve annual export receipts of more than $104,300,000 by 2018, from $60,887,640 in 2013.

The strategic plan is to increase productivity and value addition along the value chain to make the country’s coffee industry more competitive and beneficial to farmers.

The idea, according to NAEB, is to increase productivity from 2.4kg per coffee tree in 2013 to 3.1kg per tree by 2018.

Additional land of about 3000ha will be secured to increase productivity while reemphasising the need for increasing fully washed coffee up to 71% by 2018.

Rwanda exports 42% of its coffee to Switzerland, 12.4% to United Kingdom, 20.9% to the United States, 5.8% to South Africa, 0.5% Germany and 1.5% to South Korea, among others.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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