by Tim Schilling, ED, World Coffee Research


Ladies and Gentlemen,

This morning, I’m going to talk about how Africa has more of an opportunity today, than at any other time, to increase production and quality resulting in significant and transformational coffee farmer profitability;

First the doom and gloom of where we are today: Africa produced 20% of the world’s coffee from the 70s to nineties! Today, it’s almost down to 10%! SO….What’s going on?  Sure, prices were fixed, it was post-colonial days, etc.  But come on!  Why is it so bad!?

Coffee Yields


What’s going on is that Africa has become the home of lowest coffee yields on the planet.

And that translates to FARMERS NOT making money. Coffee farming is NOT PROFITABLE! And when farmers can’t make money on a crop they don’t eat, either they leave it for other crops, or continue to harvest what they can for a little cash, but without putting anything in it.  That action depletes soil resources and continues the steady decline we saw in the earlier slide.

A Look at today’s farm gate prices shows exactly that. Coffee Farming is not profitable in Africa. It’s not a secret, ask a farmer.  500kg/parchment per year and 100$.  That’s not money, that’s misery.

Until African coffee farmers start making REAL money , African coffee production will continue its decline. Unfortunately, the collateral damage is that Africa’s coffee farm youth want to leave that scene as fast as they can.

But all is NOT doom and gloom.  If you look around right now in Africa, you can see that in the last 10 years this is starting to change. Thanks to projects financed by GATES Foundation, USAID, EU, Falcon/RTC, ECOM and OLAM and many others….some farmers have indeed increased their incomes and they starting to smile.

They are reaping the BENEFITS coming from doing things different, doing things BETTER!  Attention to GAP, improvements through quality work and direct links to markets are PAYING OFF.  Many of these guys are DOUBLING the average yields!

Rwanda built it’s reputation on QUALITY.  Over 300 CWS were built in 10 years focusing on quality improvement. Today, Rwanda coffee farmers in FW Specialty Coffee schemes are making better money than most small holder coffee farmers the world over!  Buyers are paying top dollar for these coffees.

After 10 years of working in a more professional way, you can see the differences right down to the villages. Tin roofs are shining. There are flowers all over, shops, banks. There’s a future.  Coffee has become a profession in Rwanda.  Young people are attracted to it.

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