By Jean d’Amour Mugabo
Coffee farmers in the Eastern Rwanda have decried lower prices in their zones that are causing them losses.
Some coffee farmers in Muhura Sector of Gatsibo District told Pan African Visions last week that coffee prices plummeted from the last years Rwf300 to the current Rwf190 per a kilogram.
Bonaventure Kabahizi, a resident of Mamfu Cell of Muhura Sector, owns 200 coffee trees. He said the coffee market inaccuracies have come with the farmers’ zoning which was introduced last year, forcing them to sell their produces at a particular site in their respective zones.
“This zoning came last year dividing Mamfu Cell in three zones. These zones buy coffee at different prices. For example, one factory’s owner Nkubiri was buying coffee at Rwf300/kg last year while two others’ offered Rwf250/kg,” he said, adding,
“Many farmers decided to default zoning guidelines in pursuit of higher prices.”
Kabahizi said other buyers complained to the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) which set up the price for all at Rwf190 per a kilo.
“Nkubiri’s factory is currently offering Rwf190, Camarade’s offers Rwf200 while Rwasama offers Rwf220; so a farmer will try to default the zoning to seek better prices and one faces fines when they are caught,” he said.
Kabahizi said, considering the work and investment they put in coffee plantation, a farmer cannot benefit until the price is set at Rwf300 minimum.
“We wish that zoning be removed to allow us to sell to any buyer of our choice. If NAEB fixes the price, let it be maintained by all buyers in the country. The current highest price of Rwf220/kg is not benefiting us either,” he said.
His complaints were echoed by other farmers in his area.
Rose Mukakibibi said the zoning has given monopoly to buyers who treat farmers unfairly with unreasonable prices.
“NAEB has put us in a market cage to sell our produces at Rwf200 whereas others in another zone are selling at Rwf220/kg. We need these limitations scrapped,” she pleaded.
The Executive Secretary of Muhura Sector, Stephen Rugengamanzi, says the zoning is important to know the coffee origin and determine its quality while cutting the distance between the farmer and buyer. He, however, said they are going to look into price harmonisation across the zones.
The Communication Manager at NAEB, Pie Ntwali, says NAEB sets the minimum prices to protect farmers from losing into the pockets of buyers but a buyer is allowed to offer bonuses to farmers depending on the market they have also got for the processed coffee.
“For the zoning, we only encourage farmers to sell at the nearest factories to avoid losing quality of coffee on a long way to the factory,” says Ntwali.
Rwanda has for long been one of the producers of the best coffees in the world. The variety from Ngororero Coffee Washing Station in Western Rwanda was awarded both “Best of the Best” and “Coffee Lover’s Choice” awards in the 3rd annual Ernesto Illy International Coffee Awards held in New York in October 2018. It was the first time in history coffee from any part of the world was bestowed the two prestigious awards.
Rwanda fetched $69.6 million from exported 20, 353.4 tonnes of coffee in 2017/18 while the total production stood at 21, 959 tonnes, according to NAEB.
The country targets to export at least 24,500 tonnes of coffee to fetch $74.6 million in this financial year.