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Burundi Harvest Update 2021

BURUNDI OFFERS

ALL OFFERS

New Collines Hit the Menu

Drying bed full of naturals

Burundi struggles with coffee production in many ways including poor soil quality and a less than ideal farming landscape. Smallholders produce such small volumes of coffee that sometimes a farmer can make more money from a dairy cow in one day than on coffee in a year!

HARVEST OUTLOOK

Overview

With our newest Burundi lots en route from Bujumbura, it’s time to check-in at the farm level and in the coffee industry offices in the capital. Overall, it was another tough coffee year for this small country that relies heavily on coffee exports to keep its economy afloat. The 2021 harvest delivered only about 25% of its normal volume, hampered by changing rain patterns – a now frustratingly common issue we see across the coffee-producing world.

Changes & Industry Challenges

Even though volumes were down, we didn’t see too much deterioration in quality, and we expanded our sourcing to a new area of “collines” (hills) around the Nkaka Washing Station. The real challenge this year was securing lots; it is becoming more difficult each year. The decreased harvest volumes have played a small role, but a greater culprit is ODECA, the recently centralized coffee marketing board. They’ve made our work in Burundi more difficult now that they require that almost all communication and export approvals must flow through them. We touched on this in prior years’ harvest updates, but control has tightened as the country scrambles to secure USD in order to import necessary goods. (Read more about the formation of ODECA in the 2020 HU.)

Sogestals, the semi-private, semi-cooperative washing stations, were dissolved around the time of our last harvest update [Sept 2020]. Now, the country only allows FOT contracts. This means buyers must buy locally in Burundi then float the finance/risk from Bujumbura to Dar es Salaam, a two-day journey (31 hour drive plus border delays).

To work within this new buying environment, we’ve leaned on the local partners we’ve worked with for many years. They excel at navigating the ODECA system through their decades-old personal relationships. This helps us to secure lots and get them milled, approved and shipped to Dar es Salaam quickly.

A Positive Shift

While we find ODECA’s cumbersome nationalized, inflexible structure frustrating, it’s critical that we have a level of respect for the new system and the Burundians who work within it. We need to recognize that the actors we deal with are just doing their jobs and the organization itself is working towards strong USD generation. In theory, this upcoming generation should support this ever-struggling economy.

A recent positive change from the ODECA governance is increased and consistent cherry prices—all stations must pay the same minimum price to farmers. This year, the farmgate cherry price saw a 27% increase over the prior year. Additionally, ODECA mandates that farmers receive a same-month cash payment–no more buying cherry on credit with false promises to top up the farmer payment upon a successful export many months later. While this brings some much-needed cash flow assistance to smallholders, the low harvest volume severely dampens this benefit.

Timing

Usually, rains come in February or early March. This year they stopped before the end of January, leading to a quick ripening of any nodes that had flowered early.

Peak Harvest On the Water Shipments / Arrivals
May – July

Sept – Nov

Dec – Jan

Producers transport bags of cherry on their backs to one of three Buhorwa Washing Stations collection stations.

Producing Partner Highlights

Buhorwa Washing Station | Bukeye Commune

Crop to Cup’s origin story begins in Uganda as their first successful coffee import. In 2009, the team imported coffee from Burundi, more specifically, Buhorwa Washing Station. We’ve enjoyed a long relationship with this group–navigating the ups and downs of agriculture and government influences. For a complete history of our work in Burundi read the full collection of Sourcing Updates & Initiatives in our sourcing Journal.

Buhorwa | 86pts | Bright lemon acidity with notes of cocoa, brown sugar, malt, cranberry apple with a creamy body and clean aftertaste.

Gikingo, Nkaka Washing Station | Mwumba Commune

Nkaka Washing Station near Gikingo (north of the large regional town, Ngozi and just south of the Rwanda border) is a longstanding washing station, having been built in 1979. It collects from roughly 2,400 smallholder farmers in the surrounding area.

Gikingo | 86.5 pts. | Clean, bright, and juicy with notes of black tea, blood orange, vanilla

HOW TO BOOK

These lots are slated to land in January 2022. Lot sizes are modest (100, 120), making this the best time to contract lots. If you see something of interest, reach out to your trader or reply directly to secure bags and get the best price.

– The Crop to Cup Sourcing Team