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.