Positioning Rwanda as a specialty coffee producer would best enable the sector to contribute to the growth and prosperity of the country.
Since the Strategy was developed in 2002, farmers have begun to see the value in producing
coffee since cherry prices have more than doubled since 2003. The capacity to fully wash
cherries has also significantly improved so that, in 2006, average prices gained by Coffee
Washing Stations (CWSs) for their coffee translated to a premium of 45 cents per lb. over the
New York C-Price (the standard reference price for coffee worldwide), placing Rwandan fully washed coffee firmly in the fine coffee and specialty price range.
Coffee has again become one of the country’s foremost exports, with receipts growing at an
average of 30% per year during the period of 2002 to 2006. Despite little overall growth in
the quantity of fully washed coffee being produced, Rwanda’s coffee industry has gained a
positive profile and created tremendous demand for its high quality bourbon Arabica. Long-term
relationships with household names such as Starbucks and Marks & Spencer have the potential to complete the transformation of the industry.
However, despite impressive progress in transforming the Rwandan coffee sector, the sector
is currently falling short of the targets it set itself in 2002. The current major constraint to
growth is the insufficient production of coffee cherries. This, combined with high operating
costs and weak management skills, has resulted in many washing stations struggling to turn
a profit and deliver on sales commitments. The planned move towards value addition in
coffee over and above the introduction of washing stations has also been slower than
anticipated. Furthermore, data on the coffee industry is out-of-date, so monitoring and evaluation of progress is difficult.
Given these concerns, this document sets out a Revised National Coffee Strategy, which
seeks to address these major constraints and others, as well as presenting revised targets for
the industry based on the new direction. This revised strategy recognizes that the original
direction set out in 2002 was well-founded and hence fully washing coffee can and should be
a profitable business in Rwanda. While Rwanda has broken into the ranks of specialty coffee
nations, it now needs to consolidate this progress by increasing the quantity and quality of coffee available.
This strategy, like the previous one, does not target 100% of coffee cherries to be fully
washed, as this is not a rational objective for two reasons. First, coffee washing stations must
be selective about the coffee cherries that they wash, because fully washing low grade
cherries does not add any more value than semi-washing such cherries. Hence, fully
washing should be undertaken only for the best cherries and semi-washing should be
undertaken for the lower quality cherries. Second, despite rapid growth in coffee washing
stations Rwanda has existing capacity to process roughly a third of its coffee. Targeting
100% of fully washed coffee could therefore only be achieved by dramatically cutting
production and forcing farmers to sell to coffee washing stations. This would be a negative
step for the industry as it would reduce overall revenues and likely cut prices paid for coffee
This new Strategy targets production of 33,000 tons of coffee by 2012, with 19,000 tons of this
fully washed. This should generate exports of $115 million by 2012. The graph above shows
the key actions that will result in this revenue increase. It is important to emphasize that this
means Rwanda will continue to produce both fully washed and ordinary coffee, although the
majority will be fully washed. The benefits of continuing to produce both types of coffee are:
that it provides competition for cherries which in turn ensures farmers receive the highest
possible prices for their cherries; and that it ensure Rwanda is not solely reliant on the specialty coffee market.
Five priority programs costing $9million have been identified to remove key binding constraints to success. These programs are:
• improving the use of good farming practices and integrated pest management systems through focused agronomist support;
• providing a voluntary turnaround support program for Coffee Washing Stations that have the potential to become profitable
• improving sales and distribution mechanisms through capacity building of private exporters;
• implementing a census and GIS study of all coffee producing regions;
• implementing value addition activities including Toll Roasting in China, Toll Roasting in Middle East, and a partnership with M&S.
These five key priority programs are supported by a number of other actions costing
$42.8million that are also crucial to the further development of the coffee industry. These
actions are set out in five key areas – production, processing, sales and marketing, research
and development, infrastructure