On the 21st September 2021, the National Agriculture Export Board (NAEB) officially launched the operations of their newly acquired modern coffee sorting and grading equipment worth $1.15 million. These new fixtures to NAEB warehouses will tremendously increase Rwanda’s capacity to export high quality coffee.
The event, hosted at NAEB headquarters in Kigali, was attended by the leadership of the project’s key stakeholders and major donors of the project; Jonathan Kamin (USAID Rwanda Mission Director), Kevin Ngei (a representative from the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands), Patience Mutesi (TradeMark East Africa Rwanda Country Director), Claude Bizimana (NAEB CEO), among others.
Opening remarks from the key stakeholders kicked off the morning’s activities in the building’s boardroom, before proceeding to the NAEB coffee sorting and grading facility for the symbolic ribbon-cutting ceremony and switching on the machines. A short tour around the facility and detailed demonstration of the sorting and grading process then followed.
Through TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), USAID funded the procurement, delivery, installation, and operationalization of the coffee sorting and grading machines worth US$1.159 million, while the Kingdom of the Netherlands provided funding for coffee sorting tables worth US$ 217,000 under the regional TMEA Safe Trade Emergency Facility. According to the NAEB Chief Financial Officer, Andre Ndikumana, “the equipment will considerably expedite operations. It is expected to reduce the costs incurred in manual sorting, improve the quality of the coffee, and enable Rwanda to better compete in international markets efficiently. This increased capacity will also greatly benefit the 32 coffee producer co-operatives that we serve.”
In addition, farmers are expected to collect higher premium on their coffee as quality increases. One of the ways to achieve this is to remove barriers to trade in Eastern and Southern Africa and improve the competitiveness in the private sector, as expressed by TMEA Country Director, Patience Mutesi. “One of the barriers is that it used to take about twelve days to fill a 40-foot container with coffee,” she stated. “With this machine, sorting will take less than a day.” The new coffee grading and sorting equipment falls under TMEA’s program to support Rwanda in meeting international Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary Standards (SPS) of its agricultural produce to be able to access high-yielding international markets.
With faster operations and improved quality, Rwandan coffee is also expected to make a stronger mark on the European market. “It’s definitely a game changer,” Kevin Ngei (representative from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands) confirmed. “It ensures that more coffee exports are realized from Rwanda, which will benefit not only the Dutch exporters, but also the wider European Union markets.”
Currently 400,000 small-holder farmers are engaged in coffee farming, producing an upward of 21,000 Metric Tonnes of the beverage crop. In 2020/2021 fiscal year coffee exports earned the country US$ 61.5 million despite depressed global demand due to the Covid19