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A new coffee policy that seeks to increase coffee production and strengthen extension services in coffee farming is in the offing. Gerardine Mukeshimana, the Minister for Agriculture, said the policy would replace the coffee policy of 1998, paving way for new strategies that will help streamline Rwanda’s coffee industry. It is, however, awaiting Cabinet approval.
“Coffee is an important cash crop and a source of income, which makes it essential to have clear and strong policies, regulations and strategies if we are to improve the livelihoods of over 400,000 farmers who depend on coffee farming,” she said.
Mukeshimana was speaking during the Rwanda coffee conference organised by the National Agriculture Export Board (Naeb) and the International Growth Centre (IGC) in Kigali.
She noted that, often, the role of policies and regulations is overlooked, which creates shaky systems. She added that without strong and industry-supportive policies, there can never be confidence among stakeholders, a situation that affects growth of the sector.
“It’s important to know that right policies create a fair ground for all sector players to compete,” the minister emphasised.
George William Kayonga, the Naeb Chief Executive Officer, said the new policy will guide the various activities in the coffee sector, and ensure quality along the value chain.
He said there is a need to improve extension services and put in place effective mechanisms to boost research, as well as develop technologies that can help increase coffee production,” he said.
According to Dr Celestin Gatarayiha, the head of the coffee chain division at NAEB, the policy is in line with the international coffee agreement which was ratified in 2012.
Rwanda’s coffee strategy expired in 2012, he added.
“The new policy also provides a framework on how to improve and respond to demand for coffee on the international market through more enhanced processing and marketing strategies by the private sector.”
It also seeks to empower coffee washing stations to increase production in their zones of operations but also ensuring that these stations are fully operational and profitable, he added.
The policy also seeks to put in place strong regulations and conducive working environment that will help intensify farmers field schools, knowledge and technical knowhow.
There are currently 229 coffee washing stations across the country and the number could be increased once the new policy is implemented.
According to Gatarayiha, the new policy will promote the domestic consumption of coffee throughestablishing locally developed roasting capacities.
Dr Rocco Mac Chiavello, an economic expert and consultant based in Italy, said undercapacity utilisation, market failures, especially in sourcing and access to finance, still remain major challenges in the coffee industry.
“There is need for a policy not only to regulate, but also help deal with market stability through more strengthened relationship between farmers and coffee washing stations,” Chiavello added.
Jean Jacques Mmbonigaba, the director general Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), said the policy will be key to improve and expand the fully-washed coffee market.