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Rwanda Harvest Update 2021

Everyone Wants Rwandan Coffee

Drying bed full of naturals

Demand for specialty Rwandan coffee has skyrocketed this year. The uptick has caused a surge in efforts to expand sustainable coffee-growing strategies in order to meet future demand. Perhaps more importantly, it has meant higher prices for producers. Above: A near heavenly view looking down on the Kinini Washing Station.

HARVEST OUTLOOK

Overview

Weather has been a huge factor in the 2021 harvest. Heavy spring rains delayed ripening by 3-4 weeks and extended drying periods for the early crop. The rains also meant ripening drove a high volume of cherry deliveries in the months of May and June. This stretched some washing station’s drying bed capacity, that is assuming they could afford the cherry. Groups that were able to pick, transport, and process cherries at that volume in May and June should not be too delayed on export timelines. It is worth noting, however, that high cherry prices coupled with consolidated ripening may incentivize some farmers to strip-pick. Suppliers who already have existing programs on the ground that incentivize red-ripe picking, as our partners do, will have a large leg-up on ensuring quality in this frenetic market.

Covid-19 Challenges

While Rwanda has kept case rates and deaths low (relative to the world) with its strict lockdown procedures over the last year, there has been a recent surge in Covid-19 in June. New lockdown restrictions have been put in place by the government to try and avoid a severe 3rd wave that is affecting neighboring Uganda and the Congo. To date in Rwanda there have only been 854,194 Covid-19 vaccinations administered for a population of roughly 13 million people. While the majority of the 2021 Rwandan coffee harvest has already been processed, it is likely that this Covid surge and the ensuing lockdown will cause delays and supply chain frustrations in the coming weeks and months.

Demand for Specialty Surges

Prior to this outbreak, the main story of the 2021 Rwandan coffee harvest is that demand for specialty washed Rwandan coffee has gone through the roof. There is heavy competition between washing stations for cherry (prices have risen by 15%), and suppliers and exporters are scrambling to secure enough volume to fulfill contracts for this harvest. Thankfully, we pre-contract with our partners before the harvest starts (contingent on QC approval of course). These partners already pay high farmgate prices for cherry and incentivize farmers in creative ways ensuring loyalty year-over-year. This harvest is an example of how doing the right thing brings less risk.

Timing

Peak Harvest Lot Selection On the Water Arrival
May-June

July

Sept – Oct

Nov – Dec

Producing Partner Highlights

Kinini

For those new to the Kinini supply chain, we buy both their washed and natural process coffees. Crop to Cup is their sole importer into the US. We focus on coffees grown in Kinini village, directly adjacent to the washing station. These lots are mostly grown by a women’s cooperative. For the natural process coffee, we are targeting peak harvest collection and liaising closely with their new QC lab for strict lot separation.

“Kinini farmers are becoming more self-sufficient. Success has been a great recruiter. Farmers talk about high cherry prices, bonus payments, assistance, etc. and their neighbors want in.” ~ Jacqueline Turner (right), Co-Founder of Kinini Coffee

Updates:

– Expecting Fairtrade Certificate for the 2022 harvest.

– Currently transitional organic, expecting to be fully organic for the 2023 harvest.

– Launched a roasting/cupping lab at the washing station with the Arc S Sample Roaster

– Hired a roaster/cupper named Patrick who is also a farmer liaison, IT guru, and new member of the flat team-approach executive team at the washing station. Kinini was able to provide training/mentoring/calibration for Patrick in the off-season so he could cup coffees this harvest for lot selections.

– Started open-door tasting sessions at the new lab for coffee farmers. These sessions also include tasting flavors found in coffee such as chocolate (which was a first for many farmers) and acidity using local reference fruits such as banana and tree tomatoes. They are also using raw potato as a sensory experience to be able to better understand potato defect.

– Floating cherries at the cherry collection sites themselves, not just at the washing station- ensuring better incentives for better picking.

– Distributed red wristbands to pickers to better explain color expectations.

– Continuing bonus structure change from 2020. They moved from a volume-based incentive of 5% per kilo in 2019 that only the biggest farmers qualified for, to a flat bonus of 10% per kilo across the board to all farmers in 2020.

– Growing 30,000 seedlings at 3 different seedlings nurseries in an attempt to double volume by 2023. Instead of buying seedlings, they are developing their own seedlings from the most productive & healthy plants from each of the 3 areas. Each nursery will only supply their surrounding areas since the trees will be ones that have proven to be the most healthy and productive in that particular micro-climate.

– Vermicomposting has finally found its stride at Kinini. After a year of skepticism, farmers see the results and are rapidly expanding the project. Farmers are now building their own vermicomposting sites at the farm level.

– Hired extra security guards to protect stock as coffee theft has been on the rise due to the high demand.

– Continue to send 10% of all Kinini profits to charity

Farmers participate in sensory tasting classes in June.

Tuyishime, a farmer, cups roasted samples in the new lab.

Nova

Agnes and the Nova team have been working extremely hard over the last year to keep their community safe. It should come as no surprise that the core culture at an enterprise founded by pharmacists is health. The health of both the community and the environment. Here are the updates of what’s new at Nova Coffee.

We buy exclusively natural process coffees from this group and are their sole importer into the US. There are three different cooperatives that deliver their cherries to the Nova Washing Station. We focus on coffees grown by the women’s group called Dukorere Kawa Bukure Women’s Cooperative. We target peak harvest collections and cup through intensive lot separation to choose the best natural process coffees.

Updates:

– Obtained Organic Certification for this harvest

– Over 700 farmers are currently in an organic composting training program

– A community vegetable garden was built by the washing station and is managed by the youth of the farmer groups. The purpose is to learn gardening skills and to provide vegetable seeds to farmers

– Nova paid for 200 farmers to receive life insurance

– As part of the 2020 govt. supported community healthcare initiative called “Mutuelle de Santé” through Babylon Health, a % of Nova’s Profits from 2020 paid for health insurance for the 100 poorest farmers in their community

– Plans for expansion with seedlings coming from NAEB (National Agriculture Development Board) in Sept.

– Helping to organize a 2nd women’s farmer group in the area

Workers hand sorting cherries that just arrived to the washing station.

Coocamu

Helping farmer groups level up to the higher-end of specialty coffee market is something we are always focused on. It takes more than just a visit one year or a little support. Instead, it requires year-over-year communication and calibration. Every harvest we continue that work with a Fairtrade group called Coocamu. Each year, we cup their coffees and provide feedback. When the quality is there, we purchase some really delicious Lake Kivu coffee. The improvements made by that group in a very short period of time have been astounding. We are very hopeful for this harvest and the future of their production.

How to Book:

Crop to Cup is actively booking lots. Review our Pre Shipment Offers to see upcoming availability. Reach out to your trader to forward book for November arrivals. *These make for fantastic fresh arrivals for any Holiday features!

PRE SHIPMENT OFFERS

– The Crop to Cup Sourcing Team