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We are not against coffee value addition: Buganda MPs

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Buganda Parliamentary Caucus is not opposed to value addition of coffee, but rather wants fair competition that will allow Ugandans to take up the task, the caucus chairperson, Muwanga Kivumbi has revealed.

He was making a rejoinder to President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s statement on independence that he is ready to fight whoever is opposed to the agreement between the government and the Uganda Vinci Coffee Company Limited.

Museveni noted that he will not tolerate anybody who stands in his way as he tries to get investors to add value to Uganda’s coffee. In February this year, the Minister of Finance, Matia Kasaija signed an agreement with Enrica Pinetti, an Italian investor to construct an 80 million US Dollars coffee processing factory in Uganda.

The coffee agreement drew strong opposition from several Ugandans especially those involved in the coffee value chain, saying it was bad for Ugandan farmers. Parliament later passed a resolution urging the government to walk away from the agreement, saying it was disadvantageous to Uganda. However, Museveni described those opposed to the coffee deal as the real enemies of Uganda’s progress, saying they must be fought and defeated.

Delivering his statement to journalists at Parliament on Tuesday, Muwanga Kivumbi said that they are not against value addition but want an opportunity for Ugandans to process their coffee.

“We want the government to understand and the president, we are not against value addition, we cannot be that silly to make a case against value addition. We want our coffee well processed and to earn the highest pay we could get on the international market and local markets. But what we are making a case for, we need fair competition,” said the Butambala County MP. He said that there should be an open bidding and Ugandans given an opportunity to compete.

Kivumbi maintains that the agreement between the government and Uganda Vinci Coffee Company Limited was null and void, insisting that the Caucus stands with the parliament resolution. In May, Parliament adopted a report by the Trade Committee that directed the government to terminate the agreement it signed with Uganda Vinci.

Parliament described the agreement as illegal and demanded that those who committed the Government to such illegalities should be penalized as a deterrent mechanism to stop similar occurrences in the future.

“The government is directed to terminate this agreement and report to Parliament, within 6 months from the date of adoption of this report,” Mwine Mpaka, the committee chairperson said, adding that “the agreement infringes and reverses the National Coffee Policy specifically the principle that coffee production, processing, marketing shall be undertaken by the private sector as individual farmers, farmer organizations.”

Provisions in the agreement gave the Italian investor a decade-long tax waiver, 25 acres of land in Namanve Industrial Park, cheaper electricity, and water tariffs among others. After a heated debate, Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka said the government would review Parliament’s proposals and report back to Parliament as required on the actions with respect to the report.

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