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Uganda’s surging coffee exports

The country exported highest coffee volumes in 20 years in 2016/17 season

Kampala, Uganda | ISAAC KHISA | Uganda’s coffee industry seems to be recovering from low export volumes in the previous years as the newly planted crops start production amidst declining prices on the international market.

Latest data from the industry regulator, Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), shows that coffee export volumes increased by 18% to 4.2million 60 kg bags in the 2016/17 season that end on September 30 compared with the previous year citing increased yield from the newly planted crops as well as good flowering and bean development of the crop in central and eastern region.

This is the first time that the country registered the highest coffee export volumes since 1996 when it recorded 4.15million bags.

Consequently, the crop’s export earnings increased from US$351million in the 2015/16 season to US$490million last season, representing 40% growth.

UCDA has since 2012 distributed nearly 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 low use of fertilizer remains a big hindrance to productivity.

The replanting initiative received a major boost in 2013 when the government unveiled the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) aimed at raising household incomes for poverty eradication and sustainable wealth creation.

“During 2016/17 season, UCDA began the registration of coffee farmers. Starting with Mukono and Buikwe Districts, we have registered 30,085 and 23,119 coffee farmers, respectively,” UCDA Executives headed by the Authority’s Managing Director, Emmanuel Lyamulemye Niyibigira, said in their annual report.

The authority said the registration of coffee farmers will be rolled out throughout the country as plans are also underway to review the outdated UCDA statute 1991 so as to provide a conducive environment for regulating on farm production in addition to off-farm production.

So far, the draft Coffee Bill 2017 is complete and awaits Parliament debate and cabinet approval.

This new development comes two months after the government pushed back a target of boosting annual production fivefold by a decade saying it has taken longer than thought to introduce initiatives needed to raise production.

The country now expects to reach a target of 20 million bags a year by 2030 instead of 2020, according to the Minister of State for Agriculture, Christopher Kibazanga.

“We discovered that 2020 is too close, but the dream is on to ultimately achieve 20 million bags,” he told Bloomberg in an interview.

Uganda exports most of its coffee to the European Union, Sudan, USA, and India, with Robusta coffee accounting for 85% of the total exports.

Latest data from the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) shows that coffee prices have been on the downward trend since August this year stemming from high supply on the international market. Robusta coffee was the most hit with a 5.1% decline in prices as at the end of last month.

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