Wednesday, May 1, 2019

92. New Two-Tier Pricing and Quality Control at Kopakama

May 1, 2019
by Ruth Ann Church
The first of May is "Labor Day" in Rwanda - the day when workers, and good work ethics are celebrated. When Ruth Ann was visiting Kopakama on May 1, 2017, she witnessed an employee meeting where they voted on the "employee of the year" as part of the celebration.

This makes May 1 a good day to commemorate a historic shift in coffee policy that has happened this year - 2019, that will significantly benefit farmers, and coffee buyers, for years to come. Kopakama, as a single cooperative, decided to implement two-tier pricing at all of its 70 collection sites, and then the entire nation did!

Kopakama made the decision to shift from "one-price for all cherry" to a two-tier system back in August 2018, the "down season" in coffee in Rwanda. The cooperative's board of directors therefore had time to sensitize and inform the member community (area farmers) that this significant change in pricing and quality control was coming with the 2019 season.

NAEB letter recommending floating.
The National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) sets policy and regulates the coffee industry across all of Rwanda. They issued a statement (see left) to all coffee industry stakeholders on February 28, 2019. In part 3, the letter recommends  that "all washing stations should implement the floating system."

At Kopakama, this means a four-step process.
1. Farmers arriving with cherry must HAND-SORT their cherry, separating out the good ones and bad ones.
2. The "good pile" of cherries is submerged in a large basin of water with a net. The floaters are skimmed off the top (these are light-weight, undesirable cherries), and added to the waste pile from step 1.
3. The "waste pile" is weighed.
4. The kilograms of waste are subtracted from the total kilograms delivered, which was taken at the very start of the process. The TWO WEIGHTS are recorded in different books, and TWO PRICES are paid: a high price for the dense good cherry, and a low price for the light-weight "floaters."

In this way, farmers who are implementing best practices during the growing season and during harvest (picking only the ripe, dense cherry) are rewarded. Those with less motivation or training quickly see the benefit of improving their practices so that next time they arrive at the collection site they can be paid more.
The importance of a QC step before the farmer is paid - from the slide Artisan presented at an SCA Boston lecture. 

Images of Kopakama's cherry floating process taking place in February 2019.

The floating practice is dependent on getting the two prices right. The "high price" must be "high enough".  Farmers who invest time to bring good cherry must walk away better than the farmers who get paid the "average price" for all cherry. (Otherwise farmers will avoid collection sites requiring floating and paying two prices.)