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Rwanda's export board wants more coffee trade with Alibaba

By James Tasamba | | Updated: 2018-11-28 17:41
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Rwanda's National Agriculture Export Board is working on a plan to increase the country's coffee exports to China through a window opened by the Alibaba Group, an official said on Tuesday.

Under an agreement signed in October with the Rwandan government, Alibaba Group is working with the Rwanda Development Board to help Rwandan small and medium enterprises sell their products, including coffee, tea and handicrafts, to Chinese consumers through Alibaba's online marketplaces.

The first electronic world trade platform, or eWTP, in Africa also is meant to promote trade and tourism between Rwandan and Chinese consumers.

Currently, three Rwandan coffee companies are registered to sell roasted coffee through Alibaba's online marketplace, and have so far sent to China 1,800 roasted coffee packets, according to the National Agriculture Export Board.

But Sandrine Urujeni, the board's deputy chief executive officer, said that fresh efforts are in place to bring more companies on board because there are many certified coffee roasters in the country.

"We are doing our best to expand the international coffee trade. China's market is unique because of its preference for roasted coffee whose value is high," she said on Tuesday.

She added that after the initial trial phase, soon more companies will be transacting on Alibaba's online marketplace.

Prices of roasted coffee stand at between $8 and $10 per kilogram on the international market, depending on quality and demand, according to Urujeni.

Benjamin Nkurunziza, the head of marketing at Rwandan Farmers Coffee Company, one of the initial beneficiaries of Alibaba's online marketplaces, said they have been engaged in the coffee export business but the Chinese market presents better prospects as roasted coffee prices double compared to unroasted.

Briefing reporters after a weekend tour of the Rwandan Farmers Coffee Company in the capital, Kigali, Chinese Ambassador to Rwanda Henry Rao Hongwei said Rwanda can leverage coffee as a key export to China.

"In China, Rwanda is well-known for its high-quality coffee. So I do believe in the near future there will be a big market for Rwandan coffee," he said, adding that Rwandan coffee offers the potential of benefiting from China's big consumer market.

The envoy, who was accompanied by dozens of embassy staff, received an explanation about the roasted coffee process and the source of roasted coffee.

Rwanda's coffee exports increased from 22,000 tons in 2016 to 23,000 tons in 2017, and is expected to soar to 24,500 tons this year, riding on increased trade volumes and appreciative global market prices, according to the National Agriculture Export Board.

Rwanda's formal trade deficit was reduced by 1.4 percent in the first five months of 2018, compared to the same period last year, due to increased volumes and appreciating prices of exports on the global market, such as minerals, coffee and tea, according to central bank figures released mid-year.

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