Allow me to respond to a story that appeared in The NewTimes, December 31, 2011 titled “Scientists to Help Fight Coffee Pest.”
We strongly disagree with a press release dispatched by the Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI) scientists through the University of California that potato taste threatens the Rwandan economic development.
We believe this statement is due to lack of enough information on the situation of the pest in the country.
However, we agree that collaboration in research is needed to control the pest and completely suppress the potato taste and any other coffee pests in Rwanda.
Potato taste is a coffee blemish characterised by a musty flavor or potato like smell of the bean. Antestia coffee bug is believed to cause this defect by damaging the coffee fruit thereby creating an entry of micro-organisms responsible of the musty flavor.
Cases of potato taste have previously been reported in Rwanda. However, it does not constitute a threat to the coffee industry because farmers are aware of this and control measures to reduce this have been put in place, including the control of antestia bug.
The Government of Rwanda through the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) has established a pesticide spraying programme against the bug, every year.
This measure combined with others, such as cultural control practised by farmers, has drastically reduced the incidence and severity of the pest and its population to a level below the economic threshold, which has resulted to reduction of potato taste incidence.
Hand sorting of coffee beans has proved to be effective in reducing the incidence of the potato taste. Currently, there are modern colour sorting machines highly sensitive at different coffee export companies, which detect defective beans before further cupping tests.
NAEB has also advised many coffee exporters to acquire the machine. With all these measures, the incidence of potato taste has been reduced. Moreover, with cupping laboratories established in different areas in the country, NAEB insures that the coffee exported is of good quality.
Celestin M. Gatarayiha, PhD
Head of Coffee Division
National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB).