Scientists to help fight coffee pest

A team of internationally renowned scientists from the US and Europe, will be coming in January to tackle the ‘potato taste defect’ which threatens the country’s vital specialty coffee sector.
Experts will soon meet to discuss a new pest affecting coffee trees in the country. The New Times / File
Experts will soon meet to discuss a new pest affecting coffee trees in the country. The New Times / File

A team of internationally renowned scientists from the US and Europe, will be coming in January to tackle the ‘potato taste defect’ which threatens the country’s vital specialty coffee sector.

According to a statement from the Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI), the organization that is sponsoring the scientists, the defect “thought to be caused in part by the “antestia bug” threatens to deter international buyers from purchasing Rwandan coffee.”

The team will work in collaboration with the National University of Rwanda’s Dr.Daniel Rukazambuga and his team to devise means of overcoming the coffee pest. Through their research they hope to discover the link between the antestia bug and the potato taste defect that can affect specialty coffee.

The Head of the Coffee division at the National Agricultural Export Board (NAEB), Dr. Celestin Gatarayire, said the pest has always been there and it hasn’t greatly affected Rwanda’s coffee export because they were doing their best to control it.

“Every year, we have a program of controlling this pest and we keep carrying out research to find better control measures,” Dr. Gatarayire said.

He however added that the collaboration with International scientists was a good initiative and would improve control measures for the pests.

On average, 19,000 to 21,000 tonnes of coffee is exported on an annual basis.

According to GKI’s statement, if the incidence of potato taste is not addressed, it’s likely to roll back the gains experienced in the coffee sector.

Smallholder farmers saw their coffee profits leap from 20 cents a kilo to $2.00 per kilo, mainly through quality improvements, investments in technological upgrading and capacity building.  Now, these gains are at risk. 

“The team’s goal is to devise a multi-prolonged strategy for ridding Rwanda’s specialty coffee of the potato taste defect,” reads the statement.

maria.kaitesi@newtimes.co.rw

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