Global coffee industry players will be participating in a forum in July 2021, hosted by Rwanda and aimed at finding solutions to various challenges in the sector.
“This platform for producers will help understand and seek solutions for many issues threatening farmers’ livelihoods and coffee production,” Rwanda government said on Tuesday.
According to organisers, this forum has attracted more than 1,500 regional and international virtual participants, from over 40 coffee producing countries across the globe.
Participants include coffee producers, policy makers, roasters, importers and exporters among others; all focusing on the intersection of coffee and sustainable development, economic sustainability, rural development and socioeconomic indicators, and adaptation to climate change.
With the devastating effects of Covid-19 pandemic on the global economy, the coffee sector has also been significantly hit because consumption has drastically dropped.
Exporters have since reported facing supply-side constraints like labour shortages and costly freight charges attributed to COVID-19 restrictions.
Research findings from the Africa Great Lakes Coffee Support Program (AGLC) have revealed that low and stagnating production has placed Rwanda’s coffee sector in a vulnerable state.
Perennially low coffee prices (24% below others in the region) have resulted in low, often negative profits to farmers, discouraging them from investing in their plantations.
In simpler terms, farmers have been left out of Rwanda’s “coffee renaissance” over the past 15 years and the consequences are now more apparent than ever.
Many farmers report that losses in coffee have driven them to abandon their coffee trees and increasingly to uproot them in favor of other, more profitable crops.
However, despite all these trends, the National Agriculture Exports Development Board (NAEB) says, Rwanda’s specialty coffee production rate moved from almost zero in 2000 to 58% in 2017 and projected to grow to 80% of total coffee produce by 2020.
During the 2019/2020 fiscal year, Rwanda’s coffee exports generated over U$60.4 million, a decrease of about 12% compared to U$68.7 million in 2018/2019, according to NAEB’s June 2020 report that compared the performance of the agricultural export in 2019/2020 and that in 2018/2019.
Rwanda has been aggressively pursuing adjustments that would ensure coffee farmers retain their coffee plantations and also attract more youth into the sector.
For example, Rwanda in January 2020, introduced new farm-gate prices of Rwf248/kg from Rwf216/kg representing a 14.8% increase.
Fulgence Sebazungu the President of Rwanda Coffee Cooperatives’ Federation (RCCF), which represents coffee growers in the country, said, farmers had been expressing concern over low coffee price which were disproportionate with their efforts.
“Increasing price for coffee cherries, instead of going down during this Covid-19 period, was a motivation to farmers to get interested in taking care of their coffee trees,” he said.