Updated: Nov 19, 2020
The coffee industry notices the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak all too well and this is happening on a worldwide scale. Many cafés in Europe are struggling to meet their monthly target incomes as a result of only being able to serve take-away food and beverages. The crisis is also hitting coffee producing countries hard, such as Rwanda, the place where we source our coffee. The majority of the specialty coffee that we supply to offices and cafés in The Netherlands and the rest of Europe comes from this East African country. Since 2015, Stean has worked closely with the Rwandan coffee washing station Liza, owned by Jean Paul. They met while Stean worked with smallholder coffee farmers in western Rwanda over a period of 6 months. Stean communicates with Jean Paul on a daily basis through WhatsApp and he is proud to be Liza’s ambassador outside of Rwanda.
Today we asked Jean Paul about the impact of the Covid-19 virus on the operations in Rwanda. He explained to us that Liza Coffee Washing Station usually receives 10 tons of cherry per day from small holder coffee farmers. However, as a result of the country’s lockdown, farmers are not able to harvest their coffee and make their deliveries to the washing station due to restrictions imposed by the government for the benefit of their health. Coffee farmers have to be granted permission from their local city council to leave their premises, which few have been able to do so far. Jean Paul, who right now is experiencing the peak of this year’s coffee harvest season, is receiving an average of 1 ton of cherry per day. To make matters even more challenging, Rwanda has not been blessed with enough rain this season and the farmers that are able to continue their operations are finding lower yields than usual.
During this specific time of the year Jean Paul usually employs extra people to combat the increased workload his washing station faces as it is the peak of the harvest season. As a result of the Covid-19 crisis however, Jean Paul has not been able to utilize this year’s harvesting season for the maximization of his coffee cherry production. To stop the virus from spreading in Rwanda, the Rwandan people will have to comply to social distancing rules. The government has also implemented restrictions to keep people from leaving their homes unless it is absolutely necessary. This has a major impact on Jean Paul’s operation and in turn, also on the African workers who are now unable to receive any form of income.
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel as washing station owners are allowed to apply for a special permission for a safe and responsible continuation of their operations. This permission will be given out if the washing stations can act in accordance to a set of guidelines to ensure the safety and health of their workers. For Jean Paul these restrictions are luckily very clear and easy to follow as his washing station, due to its large size and resources, allows individuals to keep enough distance. In this manner the farmers that Jean Paul work with can be guaranteed a safe working environment, a dependable income in this tough time and a valuable return of this season’s coffee harvest peak.
We are confident that we will make it through this challenging time as long as we prioritize our health, work safely and act together; from Amsterdam all the way to Rwanda.