By Joan Akello
Many Ugandans still believe that when you drink coffee you will die, and this accounts for its stunted domestic consumption, experts say.
Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi said, “Coffee is a historical principal export of Uganda, generating over 50% of all commodity exports revenue. Over 40% of the 4.2 million agricultural households are dependent on production of coffee. “He was speaking at the launch of the 10th African Fine Coffees Conference and Exhibition on Feb. 14. dubbed “Discovering the Diversity of Coffees from the Pearl of Africa-Uganda”.
He said that the global coffee industry still has a challenge of unequal distribution of revenues generated from coffee. About 70 countries produce coffee, of which the Exporting Members of the International Coffee Organization are responsible for over 97 percent of world output.
“In 2011, the global coffee market was worth US$ 175 billion of which, the coffee producing countries earned only US$ 24.9 billion representing 14.2%. This glaring disparity in the trade is a disincentive against attracting and retaining farmers in coffee production. To bridge this gap, all the initiatives within our means should be directed towards ensuring that the farmers gain more from their sweat.”
Robério Oliveira Silva, Executive Director of International Coffee Organization, said that African coffee producers prior to the signing of the international Coffee Agreement in 1989 were delivering on average 20 million 60 Kg bags a year while 2011/2012 it has reduced to less than 16 million 60 Kg bags.
He attributed this decline to low productivity, difficulty in accessing and increasingly segmented market often the result of poor infrastructure and constraints in available credit, and a lack of research and investment in the sector from both public and private institutions.
However, Henry Ngabirano, Chairman Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) said that much as Ugandan coffee has gained international recognition, the ‘don’t drink coffee campaign’ by medics is affecting domestic consumption. he added that pricing and taste also affects consumption. “Many Ugandans feaf to drink Arabica coffee because of the bitter tases and tea is cheaper.for example, a tea spoon of tea leaves can serve two cups while the same can only serve a cup of coffee.”
US. Ambassador to Uganda, Scott Delisi said that although African coffee has started to penetrate some niche markets in the United States; most of it still goes to Europe and Asia. “This is particularly true of Ugandan coffee – only 7.2 percent of Uganda’s coffee exports went to U.S. markets in 2011.”
He added that over the last ten years, the American people, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, have supported improvements in the quantity and quality of coffee production, as well as marketing, and supply chain management, for the African Fine Coffees Association, as well as the wider coffee industry.
Tress Bucyanayandi, minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries told the conveners that coffee is a principal foreign exchange earner and is positioned at the core of Uganda’s development and transformation agenda as well as being high on the priority list of the above mentioned interventions.
As far as the commodity is concerned, the strategic focus will be placed on Increasing coffee production and productivity; Strengthening the coffee research system through sustainable financing and collaborative; linkages among coffee research, development and extension and promoting equity of gender, youth and vulnerable groups to be more engaged in the coffee value chain.
The conference program started with pre-conference activities on Feb. 12 featuring women in coffee meeting and the conference will end tomorrow. A host of speakers and coffee gurus and delegates from Africa and beyond have attended the conference.
Scott said,”we are developing a “Doing Business in Africa” campaign to focus the resources of the United States Government and assist U.S. businesses in identifying and seizing opportunities in Africa. We will also engage the diaspora in the United States, where there is increasing interest in bringing investment back to the continent.”