If you have a good thing on the go, it is easy to maintain the status quo.
For coffee farmers in Rwanda, it is a simple case of putting in the hours out in the field and reaping the financial rewards once the beans go off to the export market.
However, there is a movement to keep more coffee within their borders.
Coffee farmers in the districts of Kirehe and Kayonza are counting their losses and raising their arms in protest after finding out senior members of local cooperatives have embezzling money and stock levels.
According to the reports from Rwanda, many of the people implicated fled before they were publically outed.
Members of the COACMU Cooperative are believed to have been swindled out of Rwf60 million ($78,500) by their bosses.
Coffee farmers in Rwanda can expect more support from the National Agricultural Export Board (NAEB) and select foreign partners under the terms of a new initiative.
The NAEB is hoping to link farmers in Rwanda with coffee buyers from a wide variety of locations in a bid to increase profitability and reduce the influence of intermediaries.
According to statistics released by the National Agriculture Export Board (NAEB), Rwanda exported 17.3 million kilogrammes of coffee between January and November of last year, a rise of 14 percent compared to the same time period in 2014.
An eclectic bunch of coffee buyers from the United States, Canada and Australia have been traipsing around Rwanda recently, engaging with local farmers and learning about specific agrarian techniques and initiatives.
Led by David Griswold, the CEO of Sustainable Harvest, the group have taken in tours of plantations and washing stations in the Kayonza District of Rwanda, the country’s most easterly region.
“It has been a spectacular tour,” said Griswold to The New Times earlier this week.
A joint project between the National Agricultural Export Development Board and some US-based partners will hope to improve the production and quality of coffee grown in the Great Lakes region of Africa.
The initiative, called the Africa Great Lakes Coffee Programme (AGLCP), was launched a week ago in the Rwandan capital of Kigali and it will aim to reduce the effects of the antestia bug, the pest which is thought to cause potato taste defects (PTD).
“In 2007, my friends and I pooled [our] resources together to start a coffee washing station. We chose Muyongwe because there are many coffee farmers [there] whom we wanted to support,” explains Antoine Urimubenshi.
Urimubenshi’s washing station, less than a decade old, has already become one of the processing facilities in Rwanda. Over the years it has scooped up numerous awards for the quality of the coffee it helps produce.
The Rwandan coffee industry has taken a bit of a hit over the past month.
According to figures released by the National Agriculture Exports Board (NAEB), the average price that Rwandan coffee fetched at market dipped down to $3.24 per kg.
Naturally, this decline affected the country’s export revenue which, in July, plunged to $6.1 million.
The Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE) has been running their Cup of Excellence program since it was first launched in Brazil in 1999. Since that maiden event, the Cup of Excellence (COE) has grown to include – at one point – eleven different coffee producing nations and countless farmers.
At the moment there are twelve different COE events covering ten countries.
For those in the trade who are on the hunt for the best coffee in the world, it’s a much-loved event and for those farmers and plantation workers it is a vital part of the calendar – a good score from the COE judges can increase the value of their handiwork increase exponentially.
Unfortunately, this seems to be a recurring type of news story at the moment. You might remember that we documented the fears and potential reasons as to why the Vietnamese coffee industry is struggling somewhat and why a rather peculiar crop could cause untold problems in the future.
Well, today it’s time to look at why Rwanda’s coffee chain could be under threat. And in this instance a number of onlookers have weighed into the debate.