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Uganda Become Top Coffee Exporter from Africa

Uganda Become Top Coffee Exporter from Africa

January 18-2021

editor@coffeegeography.com

According to ICO data as well as figures from the Ministry of Finance of Uganda, the country managed to export more than 2.85million bags to international market for the last six months from June to Nov, positioning to become the primary source of green coffee from Africa surpassing the dominate force Ethiopia. Export revenue exceeds USD$750m so far with the prospect to close the year with much higher earnings. The performance of the previous year was 4.2m bags for the whole year.

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The government of Uganda had started the layout of the coffee industry reform in 2014 with the ambition to produce 20m bags by 2025. Then the country’s export capacity was 3.5m bags which for many coffee analysts was just unfeasible future. That is now proven to become reality as the country is seriously engaged the be the power player the coming years.   

The current successful outcome didn’t come easily as the nation projected the implementation of the government’s initiative the boost production. The military, students and other people from all sectors participated in building seedling nurseries and distributing them to the farmers who manage the land for wide plantation. The voluntary contribution is indeed brought quite a significant impact in foreign earning for the country six years later.

Among the ideal policy of the government is to pass a new law aimed at regulating coffee growing to help improve the quality of beans for its key export commodity. The Bill seeks to repeal and replace the Uganda Coffee Development Authority Act, Cap. 325 enacted 29 years ago which doesn’t meet the current international market environment.

The current law only covers off-farm activities of marketing and processing, leaving on-farm activities like planting materials, nurseries, harvesting and post harvesting handling outside the scope of the law. The Bill also requires all coffee farmers to register at no cost to them. 
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The registration will entail capturing details of the size of land, number of coffee trees, particulars of a farmer, coffee buyers, sellers and nursery bed operators.  Ugandan coffee is produced by smallholder farmers with rudimentary practices; and the average yield is 0.6 tons per hectare, compared to 2.2 tons per hectare in Vietnam. While Arabica was introduced at the beginning of the 1900’s, Robusta coffee is indigenous to the country, and has been a part of Ugandan life for centuries. The variety of wild Robusta coffee still growing today in Uganda’s rain forests are thought to be some of the rarest examples of naturally occurring coffee trees anywhere in the world. The coffee trees are intercropped with traditional food crops and grown in the shade of banana trees and other shade trees. In these self-sustaining conditions, coffee is left to grow naturally, flowering on average twice a year. Increased global demand for coffee is good news for Uganda. It is predicted that the global demand increases at about 0.5 to 3 percent per year against an annual growth of 2 percent per year. This creates an excellent opportunity for Uganda to fill in the gap, especially considering an increasing demand for the fine Robusta for which Uganda is known. The government has made it clear that all the necessary support will be accorded to achieve the national coffee goals. The government plans to spend $900 million for quality planting materials, access to quality farm inputs, access to finance and facilitating extension services. It is now up to the Ugandan farmers and their associations to seize this opportunity to grow their incomes and play a role in meeting global demand. The plain fact is, coffee is a cash crop. It is grown by 1.7 million smallholder farmers in Uganda, 1.17 of whom are growing Robusta, while an estimated 2.8 million people rely on it for a living. Most production is Robusta, and the prices they get are low, especially in the current marketplace, yet high-quality Robusta and Arabica have also been prioritized.

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