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Italian Ambassador tips Uganda on coffee exports

Amb. Massimiliano Mazzanti, the Italian ambassador to Uganda, unveils the 2021 Italian cultural and culinary week at his residence on Nov. 15.

Cultural and culinary week starts today to Nov.26

Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | Massimiliano Mazzanti, the Italian Ambassador to Uganda has said Ugandan coffee could fetch local farmers and the government more earnings if mechanisms are put in place to stop neighbouring countries from buying and rebranding it as their own.

“You sell some of your coffee to the neighbouring countries and it is then rebranded and it becomes their coffee; yet it’s actually Ugandan coffee,” Mazzanti said on Nov.15 at his residence in Kampala.

Mazzanti was responding to a question from The Independent about the sudden upsurge in interest in Ugandan coffee by Italy during a press briefing called to launch this year’s Italian Cultural and Culinary Week scheduled for Nov. the 22-26.

“In Italy, it is against the law not to mention the origin of the coffee (you sell). We buy your coffee and we have to mention it in the packaging that it is Ugandan coffee,” he added, “This should be made clear in the East African trade laws.

“You want to buy Ugandan coffee, it is alright but, you have to mention that it is Ugandan coffee,” he added.

In August, this year, American broadcaster, Bloomberg, reported a rise in demand for Ugandan coffee in Italy where espresso lovers have contributed to an increase in exports of the coffee beans to the highest level in at least 30 years.

Uganda overtook Vietnam to become the second-largest supplier of coffee to Italy for the first time this year, only behind Brazil. According to Bloomberg, total shipments jumped 21% to 6.5 million 60kg bags in the year through September—Uganda’s highest in three decades. A third of that went to Italy.

The Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) said in September, this year, that Ugandan coffee is highly sought after globally because of its quality and unique attributes.

The Italian ambassador noted that if Italian companies are now buying 40% of the Ugandan coffee production, they are not doing Uganda any favour or being stupid; they are buying some of the best coffee in eastern Africa.

“We buy coffee from around the world. Italian multi-national coffee companies, Lavazza and Illy, send their teams of consultants around the world to taste coffee and verify the quality of the coffee. Ugandan coffee is among the best in Africa,” he said.

Lily Ajarova, the Chief Executive Officer of the Uganda Tourism Board said Uganda’s trade balance with Italy had phenomenally jumped by two folds and reached US$ 173.6 million in 2020, thanks to coffee exports.

Italian cultural and culinary week

Meanwhile, Mazzanti said the annual Italian cultural and culinary week celebration is aimed at promoting Italian food and culinary traditions as a distinctive trait of Italian identity; and the spirit of the Italian culture.  He said this year’s theme is: “Dante, the Italian.” The year 2021 marks the 700th anniversary of the death of the Italian poet, Dante Alighieri.

The embassy will host a range of events, gastronomical and cultural, dedicated to Dante, the founding father of the Italian language. The culinary experience and presentation will focus on bringing together traditional and potential innovation of the Italian cuisine to promote awareness and optimization of food sustainability.

The week will kick off with a two day culinary expedition at the Uganda Hotel and Tourism Institute in Jinja where Italian chef Lilian Novellino will deliver curated lessons on Florentine cuisine to culinary students.

On Nov.24, there will be an Italian-Ugandan fusion masterclass for selected chefs in collaboration with the Uganda Culinary Association at the Stonehaven Winery and Restaurant in Kampala. The masterclass will be delivered by Ugandan renowned chef Rajab Mwitu who will merge Italian and Ugandan cuisines to create a unique and delectable equatorial taste.

According to the ambassador, the aim of the masterclass is to highlight the influence of Italian cuisine on every day meals through the use of local ingredients and preparation techniques. Meanwhile, the coveted annual “From Chefs for Chefs” cooking masterclass will take place at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel on Nov.25.

Italian Chef Liliana will illustrate the use of Italian products grown and produced in Uganda to experienced chefs who have been selected by the Ugandan Hotel Owners Association. “The purpose of this masterclass is to give chefs an opportunity to master the Italian taste in the preparation of their food,” he said.

Susan Muhwezi, the chairperson of the Uganda Hotel Owners Association expressed her gratitude to the Italian Embassy in Uganda for signing a stimulus package to kick-start the tourism and hospitality industry in Uganda following the lockdown of the economy due to COVID-19.

Muhwezi said the UHOA is particularly happy with Italy for emphasizing training and skilling young people in the hospitality sector. More will be trained in different areas, not as chefs but as housekeepers.

On the cultural side, the embassy has launched a digital art competition dubbed “Draw me Dante” which will allow Ugandan creatives to showcase their skills through digital comic style impressions of Dante. The competition is open to residents in Uganda above 18 years and will close on Nov.21.

The best three illustrations will be displayed at the closing gala and participants will have a chance to win various prizes. The week will close with a gala on, “Florentine, Fellinesque Fantasy & Fragrant Cuisine.”

To commemorate 100 years since the birth of Fellini, a short film produced by Uganda film director Sharpe Sewali highlighting the most awarded Italian film director, Federico Fellini’s contribution to the film industry will be aired.

Guests will further be treated to Dante Alighieri’s greatest literary work and most important poem of the Middle Ages, “La Divina Commedia” which will be presented through readings in both Italian and English.

The highlight of evening will be the gastronomical experience from the Tuscan region in a tribute to Dante Alighieri and the Emilia Romagna region as a special homage to Federico Fellini. Amb. Mazzanti said Italian culture combines tradition and innovation with the attention to detail and for the environment.

“Italian cuisine and Italian arts represent Italian culture at its best and remain the fastest channels to a full understanding of the uniqueness of our country,” he said.

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