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Good times ahead for coffee farmers

Government remains optimistic about achieving target of 20 million bags

Kampala, Uganda | ISAAC KHISA & JULIUS BUSINGE | Uganda’s coffee industry players once again joined the rest of the world on Oct. 04 to mark the International Coffee Day. The annual celebration, which was organised by the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), Uganda Coffee Federation and International Women in Coffee Alliance in Uganda, was held at the Mukono Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute, located approximately 20km east of Kampala.

Themed ‘celebrating the role of women in coffee’, the event sought to appreciate the role women play in the coffee industry. The event also provided an opportunity for the players to celebrate the country’s recovering coffee industry.

Latest data from the UCDA shows the country’s coffee export volumes grew 7% to 4.5million 60-kilo bags worth US$492million for the 2017/18 season (Oct-Sep) compared with the previous year – citing increased yield from the newly planted crops as well as good flowering and beans development.

This is the second consecutive year that Uganda is recording the highest coffee export volumes since 1996 when it recorded 4.15million bags. Last year, it exported 4.2 million bags worth US$490million.

UCDA has since 2012 distributed more than 317,000 coffee seedlings to farmers across the 98 districts that grow the crop, though low productivity, unpredictable weather conditions, inadequate agricultural extension officers, and limited use of fertilizers remains a big hindrance to productivity.

The replanting initiative received a major boost in 2013 when the government unveiled Operation Wealth Creation programme to raise household incomes and lead to socio-economic transformation.

It is estimated that more than 1.7million of the country’s 40 million people are involved in coffee growing countrywide. UCDA Managing Director, Emmanuel Iyamulemye Niyibigira said coffee is Uganda’s ‘cash cow’– the second largest export earner for Uganda after tourism.

He said the government is looking at equipping households with skills, financial support and inputs especially to women, who provide 80% of the labour to boost the crop’s export earnings. This development comes at the time coffee export earnings in most coffee producing countries is expected to remain flat as bumper harvests suppress prices on the international market, according to the Geneva-based International Coffee Organisation (ICO).

Latest data from the ICO shows that coffee prices have fallen from US$ 2.4 per kg to US$2.05 per kg in August this year citing bumper harvests.

“The current low prices are as a result of a bumper harvest of the Brazilian 2018/19 crop, expectations of good crop harvests in other major producing countries and adequate inventories in consuming countries,” ICO’s statement reads in part.

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