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Rwanda government turns to new high yielding coffee varieties

Researchers at Rwanda Agricultural Board have announced that they are planning on providing seeds to farmers to conduct on-farm trials for nine coffee varieties that are expected to produce high yields.

Simon Martin Mvuyekure, the researcher in coffee sub-programme at RAB said that the varieties, dubbed “F1 hybrids” have already been tried at the research station.

He said that the new varieties are set to address challenges of coffee production in Rwanda considering that the main old varieties have issues of diseases and pests attack as well as little low yields.

“Farmers harvest around 5 kilogrammes of cherries per coffee tree. But the new varieties of F1 hybrids can produce up to 18 kilogrammes as on-site trials show and once we reach on-farm trials with farmers they can slightly decrease but still higher than the current production,” he said.

The varieties are expected to keep increase of Rwanda’s coffee production and exports

Total coffee production from July 2017 to June 2018 increased by 3,520,769 kg equivalent to 19 percent from 18,439,111 kilogrammes to 21,959,880 kilogrammes.

The exports increased to 20,353,423 kilogrammes from 18,499,982 kilogrammes.

The researcher said that besides good yields, the new varieties have quality and they are resistant to coffee leaf rust disease.

If not controlled, he explained, coffee leaf rust disease can cause yields losses up to 40 percent of the whole coffee production per coffee tree.

“To cope with all the challenges we opted for developing new varieties, integrated pest management package, intercropping systems, soil and leaf analysis as well as maintenance of seed mother gardens,” he said and added that since 2008 efforts were put in breeding program to develop disease resistant varieties.

For instance, in 2015, researchers released RABC15 coffee variety with yields level that is high about 20 percent than BM coffee variety and resistant to coffee leaf rust, he said.

“The new F1 hybrid varieties will be released to farmers as well as climate analogue tools where we will use a software that shows which climate conditions fitting each variety,” he noted.

Muyekure added that all these will go along with development of integrated pest management package to control antestia bug, the major pest of Arabica coffee and other coffee berry diseases.

“There are many pesticides tried but the main two were recommended to farmers and those are Fastac and cabrio (pyraclostrobin) against antestia bug and coffee berry disease. There are also those made from pyrethrums,” he said.

He said that in 2015 researchers have mapped the main areas affected by Antestia bug whereby Northern Province faces the high occurrence.

“We are also working on coffee-banana intercropping system and once validated a farmer will be able to benefit from both coffee and banana production,” he said.

At least US$56.1 million was invested between 2011 and 2018 for Project for Rural Income through Exports (PRICE) project that covered coffee and tea sectors, horticulture and sericulture sectors in terms of such research.

Over 3,000 kilogrammes of clean coffee seeds were distributed to farmers which equals 9,000,000 seedlings considering that one Kilogrammes equals to 3,000 coffee seedlings.

“For F1 hybrid coffee variety, we have developed onsite trials on different research stations such Rubona station and Ngoma station and we have already secured Rwf15 million for planting on six hectares starting September for 2019/2020 fiscal year,” said Mvuyekure.