Carico Café Connoisseur, a Ugandan company has started using blockchain technology to certify shipments of coffee to try to meet growing demand from consumers for more information about where products have come from.
The firm said the initiative could boost farmers’ income, as consumers are usually prepared to pay more for goods that can be traced back to their origins. Blockchain improves security by providing a shared record of data held by a network of individual computers rather than a single party.
Proponents of the technology say it is hard to tamper with, and this makes it a secure way to track goods along the supply chain.
According to the International Coffee Organisation, Uganda, which produces some of the world’s highest quality beans, is Africa’s largest coffee exporter followed by Ethiopia. The country mostly cultivates the robusta variety, but also has extensive fields of arabica trees.
Mwambu Wanendeya, the CEO of Carico Café Connoisseur revealed that a blockchain-certified shipment of one of its coffee products, Bugisu Blue, arrived in South Africa in December 2018.
The blockchain certification means consumers can trace the coffee’s journey by using their smartphones to scan the product’s QR codes or via the certification site provenance.org. Every step of the beans’ journey is recorded, from when farmers drop them off at collection centres to warehousing, inspection by regulators and shipping.
Wanendeya, who spoke on the relevance of the technology, said “the idea is to give the consumer an appreciation of what happens on the journey and also to ensure that there’s more linkages with the farmer. Traceability is important because people are increasingly concerned that … farmers get rewarded for their work”.
He said the process will provide consumers with information such as the type of coffee bean, the year it was harvested, and where it was grown. Wanendeya predicted the innovation could boost farmers’ incomes by 10 percent. He said “consumers are willing to pay more if they know where exactly the coffee is coming from”.
Carico Café Connoisseur, which was founded in 2016, is working with two farmer cooperatives with hundreds of members.