Bringing African Coffees to the WorldBringing African Coffees to the World
Coffee originated in East Africa and it has been a principal export crop for hundreds of years. Ten years ago, coffee production throughout East Africa was in decline. Farmers were growing commodity grade Robusta coffee, contributing to an oversupply in the world market. At the same time, the demand for specialty cof-fee was increasing. These niche markets were becoming main-stream and earning significantly higher returns for coffee producers that could meet the high quality standards associated with them. USAID saw that East Africa needed to move beyond the highly competitive and volatile commodity-based coffee trade, the region needed to export differentiated, value-based products. USAID partnered with an established regional trade association, the Eastern African Fine Coffees Association (EAFCA) and helped EAFCA refocus its core mission to expand specialty coffee exports, with a priority on training in coffee quality and marketing.
With USAID’s support specialty coffee sales have grown by an average of 20% annually over the last seven years and value of sales has quadrupled compared to 2001. This is a very good indication of the region’s growing reputation for producing some of the best coffees in the world. Despite the economic downturn, global coffee prices are showing signs of recovery after dropping slightly in December 2008. The future outlook is that prices and demand will remain strong in the specialty coffee market.
EAFCA’S vision is to be the leading origin of fine coffees in the world. With support from USAID East Africa’s Competitiveness and Trade Expansion Program (COMPETE) and implementing partners the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) and CQI’s Coffee Corps volunteers, EAFCA is gaining increased technical competence and expertise through assistance with national barista competitions and is taking the first steps to organize a Women in Coffee Africa chapter. EAFCA is now successfully providing marketing and educational services to its members with trainings in post harvest processing, roasting and blending, cupping, marketing and barista championships. EAFCA is reaching out to coffee growers to raise awareness about coffee quality through its Know Your Cup farmer training program and its Taste of Harvest competition. EAFCA has also developed its flagship marketing and promotional activity, the annual African Fine Coffee Conference and Exhibition, as a way of promoting Eastern African coffees to the world and earning revenues to cover annual administrative and operational costs of the organization.
The EAFCA annual conference and exhibition draws over 600 coffee buyers and roasters from around the globe and provides excellent opportunities for African producers to network with potential coffee buyers and roasters. In February 2010 EAFCA will host its African Fine Coffees Conference in Mombasa, Kenya, the gateway to the African coffee trade.
Today more African producers are selling their coffees at higher prices as a result of their participation in EAFCA activities. In fact, of the 14 coffees that have won the prestigious Starbucks Black Apron award, seven are grown by EAFCA members. Other exciting initiatives are underway to bring specialty coffee to consumers. Through linkages initiated by EAFCA, Peet’s Coffee and Tea formed a relationship with the Association of Kilimanjaro Specialty Coffee Growers (KILICAFE) in Tanzania. Technoserve helped establish KILICAFE and its focus has been primarily on investments that improve quality. Those investments have paid off. Peet’s began purchasing coffee directly from KILICAFE in 2004 and they have enjoyed 5 years’ continuous growth. Now, KILICAFE is a $5 million dollar business. In Rwanda, no specialty coffee was exported in 2000. In 2008, Rwanda exported 2,455 metric tons. Annual export revenue from coffee has grown from zero to $8 million and Rwandan specialty coffee has been fea-tured by Starbucks and Green Mountain Coffee as the “best of the best.” Starbucks has also formed a relationship with growers in Burundi along with establishing farmers support centers in Ethiopia and Rwanda. Direct traders such as Intelligentsia, Counter Culture Coffee, Sustainable Harvest and Stumptown are invigorating the industry, seeking out unique, quality coffees, and paying growers prices that are above the Fair Trade premium. USAID’s partnership with EAFCA is successfully bringing African coffees to the world and the world to Africa.