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March 19, 2007

African coffee needs better marketing in Japan

Specialty coffee exported from Eastern Africa would do better on the Japanese market if the producing countries provided more information about their coffee beans, a leading Tokyo-based buyer and roaster has said. "Providing more and better information is the first necessary step toward extending the market for East African coffee in Japan," said Toshihide Horiguchi, president of Horiguchi Coffee.

Giving an insight of Japan's specialty coffee market, Toshihide described Africa as "a continent that remains physically and psychologically very distant from Japanese consumers of coffee". For example, Toshihide told the February conference of the Eastern African Fine Coffees Association (EAFCA), Tanzanian coffee was known in Japan as Kilimanjaro coffee.

Toshihide told the February conference of the Eastern African Fine Coffees Association (EAFCA), Tanzanian coffee was known in Japan as Kilimanjaro coffee. "Most of the Japanese coffee consumers do not know that Tanzania is a coffee producing country. country. This is because not enough information about East African coffee is reaching Japan," he explained.

Part of the criteria that the Japanese market insists on is that the coffee beans must be of traditional and of non-hybrid strain, washed and sun dried, and produced by growers capable of long-term quality sustainability. Though the market for specialty coffee is growing in Japan, the country procures most of its supplies of coffee beans from Central and South America.

Meanwhile, EAFCA executive director Robert Nsibirwa has said that specialty coffee sales in the region have grown by an average of 25 percent annually over the past four years. Of the 11 EAFCA member countries, he said, nine exported over US$162 million worth specialty coffees during the 2005/2006 coffee season compared to a 2001 baseline total of US$60 million.

EAFCA is a regional member- driven a body with a vision to improve the quality of the farmers' lives through the quality of coffee. EAFCA member countries are Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.


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