A taste for coffee from Burundi

230 tonnes of coffee beans; that's what we import from Burundi every year. We turn those beans into the coffee blends for our house brands Graindor and Spar. Being able to rely on fixed purchases like that opens up quite a few opportunities for the 27,000 small coffee farmers in Burundi who we work with. This is how we went about it, in five steps.

Step 1: Initial contacts

Buyer Carine Decock was involved in developing the project: "In 2013, we contacted the COCOCA coffee consortium, with a view to building a commercial partnership and sustainable exports. COCOCA was already working with our Collibri Foundation company fund and with the King Baudouin Foundation, who provide technical support on site to a number of members of the consortium. Obviously, that made it easier to develop a network of contacts."

What you need to know about COCOCA:

  • A group of coffee cooperatives: a 'union of the Cooperatives of Coffee growers in Burundi'
  • Established in 2012
  • Four regions in Burundi
  • 39 cooperatives
  • 27,000 local coffee farmers
  • One in-house coffee processing facility
  • 15 % of coffee production in Burundi
COCOCA coffee beans
COCOCA is a group of 39 coffee cooperatives in Burundi. The consortium brings together around 27,000 local coffee farmers.

Step 2: Quality check on site

Efico inspected the quality of the beans and the knowledge and equipment of the farmers on our behalf. The Belgian coffee importer is familiar with coffee from Burundi, making them the ideal choice to carry out extensive checks on site. After local checks were complete, Efico sent a sample of the beans to our coffee roasting facility in Ghislenghien.

Farmer with coffee beans on the plant
Coffee importer Efico visited the locations to check whether the quality of the beans was high enough. Their verdict: absolutely.

Step 3: Testing beans in our coffee roasting facility

Our coffee experts in Ghislenghien got their hands on the beans: they roasted them and carried out all kinds of tests. And the verdict? The quality and the taste characteristics were comparable with those of the Burundi arabica, which has been used for years in the Graindor blends. So, having received answers to all our questions, we immediately came to an agreement.

Because not all the 39 members of COCOCA cultivate coffee in accordance with (the same) international certification methods like Fairtrade, BIO, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ, we initially only imported beans from the cooperatives certified by UTZ.

Testing coffee beans in Ghislenghien
The coffee beans from COCOCA must not be inferior to Burundi arabica, which we have been importing for some time for the Graindor blends.

Step 4: 12 containers per year

Now we buy all the beans from Burundi for our coffee blends from COCOCA. That adds up to 230 tonnes or 12 full containers every year. In agreement with the farmers, we decided on a fixed price in 2017. This gives the farmers a set income and means they don't have to sell their beans for a lower price. They also get a specific premium per tonne of coffee beans, irrespective of price fluctuations on the market.

"We want producers to receive the financial resources, so they can guarantee and keep developing the quality of their export coffee", explains Philippe Toussaint, manager sustainable sourcing. "We can help them, for example, by aiming for even better-quality beans. That means they can raise their sales price. They also have easier access to prefinancing and loans because we regularly buy a fixed volume of coffee beans. In other words, more financial leeway. Then they can boost their quality even further and earn more in the long term."

Deliveries of coffee beans in the port
Every year, coffee farmers from COCOCA in Burundi sell 115 tonnes of coffee beans to us. We roast and process the beans in our coffee roasting facility in Ghislenghien

Step 5: Visit by coffee farmers from Burundi

And it doesn't stop there. We are continuing to support the farmers from COCOCA with their coffee production and with its certification. The growth in sales can then improve the welfare of the farmers. The Collibri Foundation is also running a project related to that in Burundi which delivers thorough training to young people from COCOCA. As part of sustainable development, a delegation of coffee farmers from Burundi visited Halle in 2015.

Watch the video clip

With this initiative, we contribute to the following Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

No proverty Decent work & economic growth Responsible consumption & production Partnerships for the goals