ACRAM sets Africa’s Robusta coffee sector up for success

10 May 2022
ITC News

ACRAM together with ITC promotes and develops African Robusta coffee to diversify economies, adapt to climate change, improve the lives of coffee farmers and offer better options to future generations.

The International Trade Centre (ITC) recognizes that ‘Partnerships4Purpose’ can contribute to impactful projects and sustainable outcomes. To celebrate the teamwork behind these efforts, ITC is proud to highlight game-changing initiatives that are made possible through strong and meaningful collaboration.

Today, Robusta coffee accounts for a whopping 30%-40% of total world coffee production, of which an estimated 80% is attributed to Viet Nam, Brazil and Indonesia. Interestingly, Robusta was first discovered in the 1800s in the part of Africa known now as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Since the 1980s, however, African coffee production has spiraled downwards, while other regions have increased their output. This is particularly worrying, given that an estimated 6.9 million coffee farms contribute to livelihoods across Africa. Despite the global increase in demand for coffee, except for Ethiopia, coffee consumption in Africa remains low, and coffee remains an export commodity in its raw form in most countries.

Developing Robusta could be a milestone for the coffee industry. The combination it offers of climate change resilience, cup quality and productivity, represents huge potential for return on investment if developed strategically.

To further develop intra-African trade, and supporting the African Continental Free Trade Agreement by promoting domestic markets, ITC has formed an alliance with the African and Malagasy Robusta Coffee Agency (ACRAM) to shift the landscape of coffee production and consumption in Africa

ACRAM is an international non-profit association bringing together private and public operators to promote Robusta coffees from Africa thereby improving incomes and living conditions of producers, researching and conceptualizing endogenous development models and supporting African operators.

Under the ‘ACP Business-Friendly’ programme, jointly funded by the European Union (EU) and the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), ITC’s sustainable agribusiness initiative Alliances for Action and ACRAM have joined forces to boost African Robusta through local value addition, environmental sustainability and a focus on youth.

The unique approach: Boosting capacity and sustainability from seed to cup

As part commercial expansion, ITC and ACRAM carried out detailed market assessments on Robusta coffees. For commercial partnerships, EU- and US-based importers and traders require clear capacity to produce reliable volumes with a consistent level of quality, sustainable and efficient operations, timely communication and reliable export processes.

By offering capacity building on quality control in all aspects of production, organization and market research, ITC and ACRAM respond to that demand. At production level, they explore new varieties and farming practices for better productivity and share best practices in post-production processing for consistent quality.

Value addition in-country is also a major focus area. Roasting coffee at origin can create additional revenue at the farmer level by tapping into budding domestic markets, and new regional and South to South trade partnerships.

Together with partners, ITC has rolled out trainings, competitions and events to improve capacity and help build local consumer markets for Robusta coffee grown, roasted and brewed in African countries, by Africans, for Africans.

Prioritizing women and youth as the engine for success

Youth inclusion and women empowerment drives the innovation and entrepreneurship the sector so clearly needs. In Cameroon and Liberia, trainings targeting women and youth attracted around 130 coffee farmers, traders and roasters. Topics included resource management, agribusiness knowledge, e-commerce platforms, access to finance and geographical indications.

‘New Generation Coffee’ is a youth-focused initiative that the partnership is deploying across its target countries, with the support of the EU-OACPS programme. Two hundred young coffee producers in Cameroon, for example, have been engaged to improve the productivity and quality of their product, so they can access more lucrative premium and specialty markets.

The impact: Increased production, better quality, better jobs

So far, the partnership between ITC and ACRAM has benefited almost 4,000 farmers across selected African countries. At production level, over 1,000 coffee farmers have been supported and trained on best practices. The same number of stakeholders benefit from technical webinars on B2B marketing, sustainability, and quality improvement.

In Cameroon and Liberia, 120 women and youth have been engaged in gender and mainstreaming focus groups and national workshops.

To further deepen this “Partnerships4Purpose”, ACRAM, ITC and the Zurich Academy of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) are establishing a Coffee Academy of Robusta Coffee. This will contribute to improving productivity, increasing output, quality and earnings of all value chain players, and will engage the new generation of coffee players through education.

Moving forward: Alliances for Action!

Partnerships and collaboration are the best way to scale up successful outcomes and amplify impact. Most recently, ACRAM played a key role developing ITC’s popular Coffee Guide. It also contributed to a French translation of the publication, a milestone achievement for coffee stakeholders in French-speaking African countries and a first in the history of the Coffee Guide.

In May and June 2022, ACRAM and ITC will lead trainings on coffee shop management targeting 30 people from nine countries across Africa. This is part of the partnership’s drive to promote local consumption, create jobs and encourage intra-African coffee trade of roasted coffee. This is Partnerships4Purpose in action!