Under the theme “Collaborative research and extension as a driver to enhancing coffee quality and alleviating the potato taste defect in coffee in Eastern Africa”, the aim of the research symposium was to discuss factors affecting coffee quality in Eastern Africa especially coffee pests and potato taste defect, and initiating collaborative efforts to conduct joint research, and undertake appropriate extension activities to support coffee farmers.
The two days research symposium was officially opened by the Minister of Agriculture & Animal Resources, and in attendance were participants from Burundi, DR Congo, Kenya, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States of America, and Rwanda. Experts in the symposium included coffee farmers, processors, exporters, importers, roasters, as well as agronomists, scientists, researchers, chemical manufacturing companies, and development agencies. All stakeholders in the coffee value chain well represented.
Hon. Dr Agnes Kalibata requested participants present to keenly discuss ways of controlling coffee pests and eradicating potato taste defect in the region. She further emphasized the need for collaboration in solving coffee quality challenges, especially the involvement of the private sector in providing extension services to farmers and supporting research. The needs of the private sector should drive research and technology development.
Amb. George William Kayonga, the Director General of NAEB, reiterated the importance coffee to the Eastern African economy. It is a source of income to many small-scale farmers. Any efforts put in improving the coffee crop and commodity, in terms of yield, quality, and value addition certainly benefits the farmers and all stakeholders in the value chain. This was the reason for not only inviting farmers and exporters, but also roasters and retailers to share their appraisal of coffee quality from East Africa, and scientists and researchers to discuss available technology for farmers to adopt or areas that require further research to improve.
During the two days discussions, participants shared information on the incidence and severity of common coffee pests in the region, as well as the potato taste defect in coffee. Discussions also showcased research done on identification of organisms suspected to cause potato taste defect. Presentations in the symposium focused on research and extension challenges in improving coffee quality, capacity building needs along the value chain to maintain good quality, and ways of initiating collaborative strategies to address coffee pests and potato taste challenge in East Africa.
Participants resolved to continue intensively supporting coffee farmers in controlling coffee pests especially Antestia bugs by promoting integrated pest management practices, encouraging growers to undertake proper harvesting practices such as picking ripe cherries and timely delivery to coffee washing stations, proper sorting of parchment coffee and green beans. It was resolved to continue research to identify the causal agents of potato taste defect and environment factors that favor its prevalence. Finally all participants expressed the need to create a platform for collaboration in research and extension, and sharing information that would be useful in controlling potato taste defect in the region.