Currently, coffee is considered one of the cash crops with good returns for Rwanda whereby its value is expected to increase as the years go by.
Every year, Rwanda sells between 16,000 and 21,000 tons of coffee grown on 42,000 hectares around the country. Bourbon and Arabica are among the most cultivated coffee varieties in Rwanda.
Currently, figures from NAEB show that Rwanda exported 24,000 tons of coffee that generated more than Rwf108 billion in 2022 while the target is to increase the country’s coffee exports to 27,000 tons in 2024.
In general, the value of Rwanda’s agricultural exports is projected to increase to US$1 billion by 2024. Of the revenues, coffee exports are expected to increase from US$61 million earned in the fiscal year 2017/2018 to US$120 million in 2024.
The target is likely to be achieved considering current figures where the crop generated US$2,796,579 (Rwf3 billion) last week.
Coffee began to be cultivated in Rwanda in the 1900s introduced by the German colonists. Today, more than 400,000 Rwandans grow this cash crop and force their meal upon it.
Despite the fact that the crop generates huge returns for the country, farmers have been claiming over meager payments that cannot help them to get rid of rudimentary farming practices.
The issue was brought up again on Monday, February 13, at the third edition of World Coffee Producers Forum (WCPF) bringing together coffee producers from 40 countries in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.
More than 800 participants from 40 countries gathered at the conference to discuss how to improve coffee processing and turn it into a sustainable source of income.
As she officiated the opening of the forum, Rwanda’s Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Dr. Gérardine Mukeshimana hinted at this problem that is often raised by coffee farmers who sell their crops at a low price and stressed the need for all stakeholders in the coffee industry to ensure decent living for millions of coffee farmers worldwide.
"It is imperative that we secure increased revenues and enhance welfare for coffee producers. The sustainability of the coffee industry does require that coffee producers and those at the bottom level enjoy shared prosperity," said Dr. Mukeshimana.
She also called on all key actors in the coffee sector value chain to recognize the role played by coffee producers in guaranteeing the sustainability of the industry and its long-term viability.
Coffee farmers in Rwanda say that the money earned per kilogram is still low depsite the fact that the amount has been increasing year by year. Last year, the price of a kilogram reached Rwf410.
Cassien Ndashimye is one of the coffee farmers working from Nyarusange Sector in the Muhanga District.
The man, who started growing coffee in 1997, says that the money earned from this crop does not correspond to expended efforts.
"I have been involved in coffee farming for a long time because I started it in 1997 with 1,340 coffee trees. The money we receive is not rewarding. We have earmarked substantial resources to improve quality and productivity of our coffee but the price is still low," he says.
Ndashimye further expresses lamentations that received money cannot help them meet household expenses as per current market conditions.
“ Apparently, the amount we used to receive in the past was more helpful than today’s earnings due to the current inflation that worsened the situation. We demand advocacy for increased price and agro-inputs supplied to farmers," he noted.
Landouard Musengimana, a coffee farmer from Muhanga District shares the same thoughts with Ndayishimiye.
“I have more than two hectares of land with 3,800 coffee trees. The price today is not compatible with what we do. This year they pay us Rwf410 per kilo, but this amount is not suitable for the farmer. They should pay us Rwf500Frw or Rwf600," he noted.
The CEO of NAEB, Claude Bizimana, says the government is aware of low prices for coffee produce noting it is making possible efforts to handle the situation.
Bizimana said that they expect deliberations from this meeting to take into consideration the improvement of coffee farmers’ livelihoods.