The Rwanda coffee development authority, OCIR-café, has embarked on a strategy to promote Rwandan coffee through the Cup of Excellence Competition.
The competition scheduled for 24 to 8th August comes when coffee is one of the promising biggest foreign exchange earners.
The aim is to export quality coffees that will bring about high returns—crucial for Rwanda, which is seeking to cut down high poverty levels among its 10 million people.
The country is targeting a $50.9 million (Frw27.7 billion) from coffee. This is a 66.6 per cent increase from last year’s total revenue of $35.7 million (Frw19.4 billion). The volume of fully washed coffee is expected to grow from 3,000 tonnes to 10,000 tonnes in 2008.
Its mostly small-scale farmers who grow the coffee at high-altitude areas in rich volcanic soils, with the Western province producing the largest volumes.
The country has over 500,000 coffee farmers attached to about 100 washing stations and 120 cooperatives.
Alex Kanyakole, the Director General of OCIR-Café explained that with the expected coffee production increase, there is need for a marketing strategy which also takes into consideration quality improvement.
He therefore explained that the Cup of Excellence Competition is one of the strategies to promote quality and market Rwandan coffee.
Owing to that, Kanyakole said the quality coffees will bring about high returns that are crucial for Rwanda, which is seeking to cut down high poverty levels.
He said that the programme is a tough competition—open to all coffee farmers who wish to participate.
Cooperatives and washing stations register their coffee for the competition.
A total of 207 coffees from different washing stations and cooperatives were submited for prescreening. Only 125 coffees qualified for the next round of selection.
The national jury chooses the best samples for submission to the international jury to determine award winning coffees.
Highly competent jury from renowned coffee roasters, suppliers, and processors approved by the Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE) determine the best coffee.
The jury explore the sources and flavor parameters of fine coffee for proof of origin.
The winning coffees are cupped at least five different times during the competition process.
The intervention of the international jury, with their experience in coffee cupping, is to approve the quality of Rwandan coffee in relation to other coffees on the international market.
Kanyakole explained that reaching and winning the Cup of Excellence is the most esteemed award.
“Only coffees that continuously score highly enough are allowed to move forward in the competition.
The final winners are awarded the prestigious Cup of Excellence and sold to the highest bidder during an internet auction.”
Winning coffees will be bought by coffee connoisseurs worldwide with discerning tastes who appreciate the complex flavor and aromatics found in a world class coffee.
“The competition will build a profile for Rwandan coffee for future profitability,” Kanyakole explained.
How? The roaster who buys these coffees cares about providing the highest quality to his customers as well as creating a direct relationship with the winning farmer to keep providing the coffee.
Winning coffees also establish personal and professional relationships between producers and roasters of fine coffees for business continuity thus realising further profits.
For the losers, it is a challenge to double their efforts and wait next time though it does not primarily mean their coffees are bad.
However, chances of reaping from the international market are high since Rwanda’s production is insufficient to meet the coffee demand.
Currently, Rwandan coffee is enjoyed by international consumers, with Europe providing the biggest market share of 50 per cent, Asia (10 per cent) and US (about 35 per cent).
The domestic consumption is estimated at only five per cent.