Rwanda revokes regulation on coffee zoning to encourage production

Rwanda revokes regulation on coffee zoning to encourage production

November 01 - 2023

Coffee Geography Magazine

Authorities in Rwanda repeals the 2016 policy that required coffee farmers to sell cherries only to the miller designated as buyer within their district. The Board announced that with the repeal of the policy “purchasing and trading of coffee cherries is permitted throughout the country without any restriction.” However, other policies will remain in place. For example, the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) will continue to set minimum prices for cherries. 

Rwanda is one of Africa's top 10 coffee producers, with nearly 400,000 coffee farmers. About 20% of them are affiliated with a cooperative society. There are approximately 310 coffee millers, many of which are owned in part or in full by cooperatives. Coffee is the nation's second-leading export by value.

Rwanda map

NAEDB said in June that the revisions are intended to “enhance quality, increase the volume of coffee, and strengthen collaboration between farmers and coffee exporters.” If successful, this will help boost investment by growers and better enable them to reach international markets that require high quality coffee, thereby improving farm profits.

Rwanda liberalized its coffee sector in 1999, which allowed exporters and mills to buy from their sellers of choice. The zoning policy was instituted in 2016 to cushion millers from losses after coffee cherry suppliers shifted allegiance to competing mills without repaying advances. Per standard practice, mills provide growers with farm inputs, advance payments, and extension services before and during each growing season, then deduct these costs from payment for cherries delivered. 

Approximately 39,800 hectares are under cultivation of coffee in Rwanda, mainly the Caturra, Catuai, Bourbon arabica types. About 60% of exports are shipped to the European Union, while the United States buys another 20% of the total, with the rest going to markets in the Asia-Pacific region. 

In Rwanda, cherries are harvested between March and July, preceded by flowering in September and October. Coffee farmers are concentrated along the shore of Lake Kivu in the western part of Rwanda with others in the eastern, central, and southern regions of this landlocked country of more than 13 million people.