Coffee farmers are appealing for higher farm gate prices as demand for Rwandan speciality coffee in the international markets grows.
According to the National Agricultural Export Development Board, farm gate prices are capped at Rwf190 per kilo as the minimum price.
However, according to the farmers, this price has become the farm-gate price, with coffee buyers reluctant to pay above the minimum set.
As a result they are incurring losses. For instance, farmers say that under the zoning policy, they have to be paid the price offered by the coffee processing station even if other stations can offer better prices.
“Comparing what we spend on maintaining the coffee plantation with what we get in return, you realise that coffee farmers are always working at a loss,” said Gaspard Gahigi, a coffee farmer in Gatsibo district.
Under the zoning structure, which has seen coffee farmers have to take their coffee production to designated coffee washing stations even if there might be others offering better prices, farmers have been trapped between regulated prices and coffee selling zones.
“There is frustration over the losses we incur based on the returns of what we spend to sustain coffee plantations,” said Mr Gahigi.
The farmers urged the National Agricultural Export Development Board, urging that NAEB to remove the restriction on coffee washing stations.
The government enforced a zoning policy in the coffee sector to better organise the industry, improve the relationship between coffee washing stations and farmers, improve traceability of coffee, and reduce the role of middlemen who previously purchased coffee from farmers and then re-sold it to the stations.
The National Agricultural Export Development Board said the set farmgate price is linked with international prices and the zoning policy was largely introduced to improve the quality of local coffee and avoid mixing coffee from different areas.
Rwanda exported 24,500 tonnes of coffee in 2018.