Reform of the coffee sector in Burundi: Prospects for participation, prosperity and peace
This report aims to contribute to the debate and to propose solutions that will allow the reforms of the coffee sector in Burundi to proceed in a way that serves the common interest of all the players involved. The ultimate aim of the report is to contribute to the prevention of conflicts that could arise in connection with the reforms.
Coffee farming plays a vital role in the Burundian economy. It is the main industry and export product of the country and provides important income for the roughly 600,000 families (about 40% of the population) who grow it.
Reforms of the coffee sector, which were initiated in 1990 but never fully implemented, have continued with greater deregulation – bringing in private operators at some levels of the sector, notably at those of export, curing and most recently (and still to a limited degree) roasting.
With the return to Burundi of major donors, notably the World Bank and the IMF, the pace of reforms could accelerate. The Burundian government has already taken some steps in that direction, including passing a law on deregulation and deciding to sell certain assets of the Coffee Board (OCIBU) as well as certain coffee washing stations.
But this deregulation and privatisation process takes places in a specific political and economic context: on the one hand there is a new democratically elected government and generalised poverty which has been aggravated by 10 years of civil war. On the other hand there is a turmoil of diverging interests which will only intensify as reforms proceed. The movement of coffee growers, which is organised into associations, claims ownership over coffee production and thus seeks control over a good part of the state’s shares in the sector, as well as active participation in all decisions concerning the sector.