Tuesday, May 19, 2015

26. Field Notes 3: Visit to Rwanda's National Agricultural Export Board (NAEB)

May 19, 2015 --- NAEB Visit
The National Agricultural Export Board (NAEB) is Rwanda’s agency for monitoring and promoting coffee exports. Like most ministries in Rwanda, they are well-organized and professional. We were honored to have a meeting with Dr. Magnifique Ndambe and Dr. William Kayonga. 

Dr. Ndambe presented a thorough and helpful overview of the coffee sector in Rwanda. The presentation covered the basics from the number of farmers (400,000 households) and a list of the varieties (BM 139, BM71, Jackson 2/1257, Harrar, POP 3303/21) to welcome surprises like the re-branding initiative they’ve just completed. Look for “Rwanda – Second Sunrise” at coffee events soon!

The summary of NAEB’s responsibilities includes “strategies for increasing coffee production and productivity.” A variety development program is key, but I was interested to see that they also highlighted quality improvement through farmer training on “proper harvesting of ripe cherry.” I wonder if red bracelets or my objective to draw a value stream map of a farmer’s harvest process would be of interest.

Dr. Ndambe and Dr. Kayonga

Students from Washington State University, Michigan State University and the University of Rwanda
The impressive increase in coffee washing stations since 2002 was understandably highlighted as a major accomplishment for quality improvement. Fully washed coffee increased from 1% in 2002 to 41% of total coffee exports in 2014, and the number of washing stations has increased from 2 in 2002 to 246 today. Dr. Ndambe said NAEB is promoting construction of more washing stations as part of its quality improvement strategy

What was not clear from the presentation was how well the existing infrastructure is being utilized. Are washing stations in all areas at full capacity during the peak season? What measures “full capacity” at a washing station? Would it be having the depulper run 100% of work time? Or is full capacity when all drying tables are filled with parchment? The answer to these questions has strong implications for finding bottlenecks and determining where capacity could be increased with minimal or no capital spend.

NAEB’s presentation picked up a theme we had started to hear on day 1 and would continue throughout the trip – specialization. NAEB is beginning a program of “appellations”. A detailed profile is being developed for each of Rwanda’s coffee districts. The objective is to characterize the uniqueness of the sensory and flavor profiles that each coffee district offers. Theses profiled coffees can then be marketed to meet market preferences at premium prices. Pretty sophisticated!

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