Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Agriculture Minister Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja has encouraged farmers to embrace modern farming practices in order to guarantee improved and increased coffee production.
Ssempijja who was yesterday speaking at the celebrations to mark the International Coffee Day held at Ankole Coffee Producers Union offices in Kabwohe –Sheema Municipality. The activities were held under the theme “sustainable coffee production through a Cooperative model and Community Development”.
The minister who represented Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda said that the failure by farmers to embrace modern farming practices such as ensuring that the soils are taken care of through mulching, application of fertilizers and irrigation are responsible for a decline in the quality of the coffee.
Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), the government agency responsible for the sector, estimates that about 500,000 households depend on coffee production. Over the Years, the farmers have relied on Uganda’s perfect environment with good soils and weather, to cultivate Robusta Coffee, one of the rarest examples of naturally occurring coffee trees anywhere in the world, without the application of agro-chemicals.
But the minister observed that the quantity of Ugandan coffee beans is still a concern since the country is striving to increase its coffee exports. Uganda is ranked as the first Commonwealth producer of coffee, second African producer and eighth world producer.
Ssempijja says that although Ankole is well known for cattle keeping, the farmers in the area have a responsibility of diversifying and ensuring that they have multiple sources of income such as coffee growing among others.
State Minister for Cooperatives Fredrick Gume said that the biggest challenge in the country is the presence of middlemen who do not only cheat the farmers but also distort the quality of Uganda’s coffee. Gume said that the middlemen usually advance money to the farmers during the time when they are faced with a crisis and often push them into harvesting raw coffee beans.
Uganda Coffee Development Authority Managing Director Emmanuel Yamulemye says that the authority is currently focusing on ensuring that the quality and quantity of coffee improves year after year. Yamulemye says that efforts are now put more on ensuing that Uganda’s position on the global market improves to feature among the top two coffee exporters.
John Nuwagaba, the Ankole coffee producers cooperative Union chairperson says that the cooperative model has given farmers a chance to secure better prices for the coffee and eliminate exploitation by the middlemen.
Jonath Tweyambe, the chairperson Uganda cooperative Alliance says that cooperatives have the capacity to help the farmers with inputs and giving them technical guidance, which results in high-quality yields.