Graphic Monday – Caffeine Buzz

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On Monday, I visited a community outside of Butare (Huye), Rwanda that produces a caffeine buzz for the rest of the world. These coffee farmers, 90% of which are women, produce high quality Arabica beans which are then market worldwide either through the highly selective “Cup of Excellence” or are purchased by roasting and distributing companies. This particular community sends most of its beans to Roger’s Family Roasters in San Francisco and then on to Costco, which uses them in its seasonal “Rwanda Blend”.

But this particular washing station is different because, unlike the nearby Maraba (Abahuzamugambi) Cooperative that received funding from USAID through the Pearl I & II and Spread Projects implemented by Texas A&M and Michigan State, it is completely homegrown.

Damian, the owner and operator of the washing station here was once an engineer for Maraba under the PEARL/SPREAD project. Afterward, he established his own washing station, which processed around 133 tons of green coffee this year. Damian also collaborates with Café Connexion, a local Swiss-run coffee shop in Butare that hopes to spread the love of coffee consumption to Rwandans through its high quality/low cost cup. At only 200 RWF for a regular coffee and 400 RWF for an espresso, Café Connexion is affordable for most of Butare’s residents, including its large University of Rwanda student population.

On this “coffee safari”, I was able to see Damian’s farm, learn about some of the natural pests and diseases he battles with organic methods, and also see his state of the art washing and drying station.

In honor of this experience, this week’s (belated) Graphic Monday tracks global coffee production, exports, and consumption using data from US Department of Agriculture Foreign Agriculture Service (USDA FAS) Production, Supply, and Distribution online database. I compare these to Rwanda’s progress as an Arabica producer over time.

Global and Rwandan Arabica Production
Global production of Arabica coffee, which dominates the specialty market, has generally had an increasing trend since the 1960s. In 2013, global production reached at all all-time high, with an estimated 91.2 million 60kg bags of green coffee. The median production for Arabica producing countries has remained above 200,000 60KG bags per year since 1967. In 2014, this figure is estimated to be around 220,000 bags.

total arabica production copy

For Rwanda, the 1994 genocide stunted the Arabica boom. In 1995, Rwanda’s Arabica coffee production dipped to an all-time low of 22,000 60KG bags of green coffee. This compares to an average of 593,000 bags annually from 1990-1993. In 1996, the country’s production surged back to 330,000 bags. Part of the delay in the impact of the genocide can be attributed to Rwanda’s harvest season, which is typically from March to May. The genocide occurred from April to July 1994. Much of the harvesting had already taken place for that year. Today, Rwanda’s Arabica production is no where near what it was at its peak period during the late 1980s and early 1990s; however, the country is producing slightly above the global median with an anticipated 260,000 bags of green coffee for 2014.

Arabica Coffee Production copy

Bean Exports from Arabica Producers and Rwanda
The USDA FAS data on coffee does not separate Arabica and Robusta bean exports, making direct comparisons between types of coffee exports difficult. Rwanda does not grow Robusta beans, but many other Arabica producers do. The best I was able to do here was to isolate exports in green coffee from Arabica producing countries.

Median exports from Arabica producing countries increased from the 1960s to early 1990s, but has been decreasing since the mid-1990s. In 2014, the median Arabica producing country will export 173,500 bags of green coffee. Note: this figure includes both Arabica and Robusta beans. Meanwhile, Rwanda will export an estimated 260,000 bags.

Again, as with the previous production graph, we see the obvious effects of the genocide on the coffee industry. In 1993, Rwanda exported 642,000 bags of green coffee. In 1995, it only exported 22,000 bags. Rwanda’s coffee exports have bounced back since the late 1990s, but like the global market, remain below what they were during the peak period from the early 1970s to early 1990s.

Exports Comparison copy

Coffee Consumption in Arabica Producers and Rwanda
Finally, let’s look at coffee consumption among Arabica producers. Quite clearly, consumption of coffee in Rwanda is nearly zero. It is estimated that the country has never consumed more than 3,000 bags domestically. This compares with a rising median consumption rate among all Arabica producers generally, up to over 150,000 bags in recent years.

Raw Consumption copy

Of course raw consumption in bags is hardly a useful way to compare across countries of different populations. Still the low consumption trend for Rwanda persists when measuring consumption as kilograms per capita. For Arabica producers, the median annual consumption rate is between 0.4 and 0.6 kilograms per capita. For Rwanda, this figure is between zero and 0.03 kilograms.

Coffee Consumption copy

Summing Up
In sum, this Graphic Monday has depicted the impact of the Rwandan genocide on local coffee production and exports, but has also shown that the country’s coffee sector is bouncing back 20 years later. It has also shown that generally, while Arabica coffee production has increased, all green coffee exports (including Robusta and Arabica) for Arabica producers have fallen with increased domestic consumption of coffee. Generally speaking, however, Rwanda remains one of the lowest consumers of coffee.

Replication Files and Sources
If you would like to replicate the graphics or explore data on coffee production further, the data used in this entry are available here: 2014.08.06 Graphic Monday Data and a PDF file with replication code for Stata is available here: 2014.08.04 Graphic Monday Do File.

Sources for data:
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS). 2014. Production, Supply, and Distribution Online. Available here.
– World Bank. 2014. World Development Indicators. Available here.




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