Low demand sees coffee export decline for 2020 over pandemic

Monday June 22 2020

Over the years, Rwanda has mastered the art of

Over the years, Rwanda has mastered the art of growing, processing and exporting some of the best coffee in the world. Photo | Cyril Ndegeya   

MOSES K. GAHIGI
By MOSES K. GAHIGI
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Rwanda’s coffee export revenues are headed for a dip this year, as reports from local exporters indicate a subdued appetite from their external coffee buyers in the USA and Europe, as the international market suffers shocks from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rwanda is known for high quality coffee, and is one of the leading exporters in the world, ranking number 30 globally in 2019, according to the World Atlas, a site that ranks top coffee exporters.

However, things are likely to change this year, after exporters Rwanda Today spoke to said some of their external buyers were not responding, while others were hesitant to make any commitments  about prices and quantities they will need this season.

“Our American and European buyers are not responding as usual, others say they will get back to us, there is uncertainty this year,” said Abimana Mathias of Mabuga Coffee Ltd from Karongi.

He, however, remains confident saying; “if we get to the market our quality will hold us in good stead.”

The other challenge he says disrupt-ed their process is the fact that they couldn’t readily access the funds they needed from banks to pay growers due to the lockdown.

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They also had to reduce the number of workers due to social distancing requirements, meaning they retained fewer coffee pickers and harvesters for the same acreage during the May harvest, slowing down work.

Travel restrictions

Grace Bashangire of Greater International Grain Ltd says by this time under normal circumstances, agents of her external buyers would have come and tested the quality but this is not possible now with the global travel restrictions.

From 1st January to 31st May 2020, up to 65,000 tonnes of cherries were produced, an eight per cent increase compared with the 62,000 tonnes recorded in the same time last year, according to the National Agriculture Export Development Board (NAEB).

Export volumes have dipped by 47.8 per cent already, recording 3,576,664 tonnes of exports between 1st January and 31st May 2020, earning $7,791,469, down from 6,852,397 tonnes exported in the same period in 2019.

Isaa Nkurunziza, Traditional Commodities Division Manager at NAEB said that in general the coffee sector was not disturbed because most of the coffee from last year had already been sold or had contracts negotiated before the pandemic broke out.

The global coffee market is in turmoil, where leading coffee consuming markets like the US and Europe-which import up to 60 per cent of the world’s coffee have been on lockdown.

The US alone with a $47.5 billion coffee shop industry came close to a complete halt, as the country shut down cafes and restaurants, sending shocks across all global coffee supply chains.

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